Danger on the seven seas is no match for what he finds on land...
Keith MacLean set sail for adventure alongside his twin Kyle when they were only boys. Forced from their homes into piracy, Keith's reputation as the Scarlet Blade precedes him. Keith inherits the Lady Grace from the reformed pirate Rowan MacNeil and is reputed for giving his captives a choice between his sword or sea.Keith anticipates a night of pleasure when he comes ashore in a sleepy village on the Greek Isles. But a chance encounter while on land sets him on a course for unprecedented danger.
Rough waters await a stowaway on a pirate ship...
Sarafina Drakos never knew her father and watched her mother waste away working in the village tavern. Raised among the dregs of society, Sarafina faces a certain future that is far too much like her mother's. Desperate to escape, Sarafina chooses a life aboard a pirate ship. But when she's discovered, her feelings aren't the only thing tied up. The Scarlet Blade demands order within his crew. When Sarafina disobeys, she finds herself over Keith's knee. A punishment she willingly accepts.
As danger lurks along the Barbary Coast, Keith and Sarafina find their blossoming romance challenged by rival pirates set on revenge. Sarafina and Keith must fight to turn the tides when danger rips them apart. But can a pirate and his stowaway trust one another or is their love doomed to the bottom of the Meditteranean Sea?
Embark on a journey filled with desire and pleasure when you sail away with this lusty tale of a pirate and his lady in Celeste Barclay's The Red Drifter of the Sea.
Pirates of the Isles is a STEAMY series where lust and love become tangled when pirates and their ladies toe the line between pain and pleasure. Travel to the Hebrides and the coast of Scotland, Ireland, and the Mediterranean as these pirates pillage and plunder not only villages and ships but the women fearless enough to take them on. Each book can be read as a standalone, but many characters appear throughout the series.
This passionate love story is ready to go up in flames. The Scarlet Blade of the Sea is a book filled with scorching desire with elements of discipline and explicit sexual scenes, including anal play and intimate objects. If this type of material offends you, please do not download.
Release date: March 23, 2021
Publisher: Oliver Heber Books
Print pages: 336
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
The Scarlet Blade of the Sea: A Steamy Close Quarters Pirate Romance
Keith MacLean surveyed the people sitting with him on the dais. He took in his twin brother Kyle’s wary expression. While his sister-by-marriage, Moira, gave him an encouraging smile, he noticed the varying degrees of skepticism from the members of the clan council. He inhaled deeply, considering his choices for the hundredth time before he slowly nodded his head.
“I would go with you, you know that, if Moira weren’t carrying our bairn,” Kyle said for at least the tenth time. Keith nodded, knowing it was the truth. The twins entered their indenture when they were barely eight years old, sold from one pirate ship to another. They’d lied, cheated, stolen, and killed to stay together. They were now the captains of their own ships and never sailed separately. The longest they’d ever been apart was three months here and there, when their previous captains—the legendary Blond Devil and Dark Heart—sailed apart. But even that was a rarity, because the two infamous pirates were cousins. Rowan MacNeill, the Blond Devil, and Ruairí MacNeill, the Dark Heart, were virtually inseparable. They’d retired from their piratical lifestyle, living with their families at Kisimul Castle on the Isle of Barra. Rowan was now Laird MacNeill, and Ruairí was his trusted second-in-command.
“I understand, brother. This isn’t one of our honest merchant voyages within the British Isles, but it needs doing,” Keith admitted. “I won’t lie and deny that I’m uneasy about sailing without you. It feels odd.”
“It feels odd to know you’re sailing without me,” Kyle agreed. “But I can’t bring Moira along, and I won’t leave her here.” Kyle shot a menacing glare at the other men at the table. Moira accepted her chieftain position after the death of her older brother, Dónal, the former clan leader. The council begged Moira to return after she’d escaped her brother’s tyranny and the council’s apathy. But the stipulation had been that the clan accepted Kyle as a member and her partner. She ruled in her own right, and Kyle was the head of the clan’s guard and merchant fleet. In the four months since Keith and Kyle made their home at Dunluce along the northern Irish coast, they’d made several legitimate trading voyages without engaging in any thievery. They both welcomed a calmer life after spending most of their lives fighting every day to survive.
The MacNeills’ retirement enabled the MacLean twins to become captains in their own rights. Keith inherited the Lady Grace from Rowan, and Kyle inherited the Lady Charity from Ruairí. In the year since the twins assumed their new duties, they’d sailed alongside one another, never more than a few yards apart. Keith never begrudged Kyle for falling in love with and marrying Moira MacDonnell, nor did he regret his brother’s choice to make his home on land now that Moira was the chieftain of her clan. But it meant that Keith would now sail alone.
“I’ll have Aidan,” Keith said ruefully.
“That is hardly reassuring for any of us,” Kyle pointed out. Aidan O’Flaherty was the most notorious Irish pirate sailing within the British Isles. Only the Blond Devil, the Dark Heart, the Red Drifter, and the Scarlet Blade surpassed his reputation. Kyle earned his moniker as the Red Drifter for his bright red hair and his penchant for setting his victims adrift. Keith earned his moniker as the Scarlet Blade for his own red hair, and for giving his captives the choice between dying at the end of his blade or taking their chances with the sharks. While Keith, Kyle, Rowan, and Ruairí trusted one another implicitly, none of the Scottish pirates trusted Aidan—at all, at any time.
“Aidan will fall in line,” Moira reassured, her smile gone. Her sordid history with Aidan made her the least trusting, but it was that past that forced Aidan to follow Moira’s…requests. “He can carry on as he always has when he’s on his own. But if he wishes to continue trading with the MacDonnells, then he will comply. If he wishes to put food in his belly and find a pillow under his head rather than my knife through his throat, he will comply.”
“And if he doesn’t, I have enough room in my hull for his cargo and mine,” Keith’s voice reflected his resolve. He wouldn’t hesitate to sever their agreement with Aidan, but he doubted he would offer Aidan a choice about it. He would run the man through without consideration. “When does he arrive?”
“Two days,” Moira answered. “Fionn is expecting you. You can stay in Baltimore with the O’Driscolls until the MacNeills arrive with their whisky.”
“They may already be there,” Kyle noted. “It’s a shame you won’t see Rowan and Ruairí.”
“Neither will leave their wives and bairns any faster than you’re leaving Moira,” Keith reminded. “I’ll stop at Barra on my return, after I store the new goods on Canna.”
“Bring back all the silk,” Moira stated. “The English will pay a pretty penny for Near Eastern goods. You’ll need to sail with MacDonnells if you don’t wish for the English to capture you while you trade.”
“Aye. My neck needs no stretching.” Keith looked toward the massive doors leading out from the Great Hall. The Lady Grace would be bobbing high in the water just past the wall on the far side of the bailey. Keith could nearly smell the sea air, and his longing to be back on the water stirred within him. He’d been content during his time on land as Moira and Kyle settled into their new roles, but his heart remained with the sea. It was no secret among Keith, Kyle, and Moira that Keith wished to settle down and build a relationship like the one Kyle and Moira shared, but Keith was in no hurry. He still enjoyed the company of a variety of women, and he intended to make the most of his two days left on land. He didn’t intend to partake of any pleasure while visiting the O’Driscolls. He wouldn’t risk irritating the already-cantankerous Fionn. Once he was out to sea and making his way to the Mediterranean, there would be no leisure activities until he reached the Greek Isles, where he would make the most of his journey.
“Get yourself there before you plan on how to spend your time,” Kyle muttered as he raised his chalice to his lips. Keith didn’t repress his grin, his emerald eyes crinkling at the corners in his suntanned face. The MacDonnell women often remarked on how similar his eyes were to the Irish grass after the rain. They’d charmed many a woman before he even opened his mouth to speak. In the Mediterranean, they would be a novelty. At the establishments he intended to visit, they—along with his hair—would be recognizable, reminding the women that they would enjoy their time spent with him as much as he would enjoy theirs.
“I was thinking that the Lady Grace’s hull needs the barnacles scraped.”
Kyle’s only response was a snort. Moira pursed her lips, knowing her husband once shared Keith’s plans while traveling. Kyle’s arm, already draped around Moira’s shoulders, tightened while his fingers skimmed the exposed skin at her collarbone. Keith watched the couple, knowing Kyle had no interest in thinking about his brother’s intentions. Kyle was the most doting and devoted husband Keith knew besides Rowan and Ruairí. Even the blind could see Kyle and Moira were a love match, but it didn’t negate the rowdy debauchery Kyle and Keith once enjoyed together.
“Get yourself there in one piece, then do as you please,” Moira quipped begrudgingly, before her smile broke through. She knew Keith and Kyle shared a penchant for the same carnal activities, the very types she relished with her husband. She also knew the Greek Isles were where Keith and Kyle received their initiations. She may not have been eager to recall Kyle’s past before they met, but she knew she benefited from her husband’s earlier tutelage.
“You mean get Aidan there in one piece. He’s likely to forget why we’re sailing there and try to attack every merchant along the way,” Keith grumbled.
“And you thought to reassure me by reminding me that you’re sailing with him,” Kyle grinned.
“If you’re finished reminiscing about your shameful exploits, perhaps we can conclude,” Cormac interrupted. His son Grady died when Kyle attacked the ship upon which Moira was smuggled away from Dunluce. He’d been the most vocal opponent of Kyle making his home among the MacDonnells, and he was counting down the days until Keith sailed away for good.
“You are free to leave at any time,” Moira stated softly. Her quiet voice belied the authority she conveyed. Cormac and his brother, Curran, had been on the council since her father was the chieftain. While she appreciated Curran’s voice of reason, Cormac’s grief made him contentious for the sake of being contentious, not out of concern for the clan. It made it difficult for the council to come to a resolution with the clan’s trade runs, which Kyle now led. No one could ignore the increase in prosperity since Kyle took over negotiating their agreements, and it stunned almost everyone to observe his prowess at legitimate business.
“I will leave as soon as Aidan arrives and sail south to Fionn’s. Assuming the MacNeills are already there or arrive close to when we do, there’s no reason we can’t be underway to the Med in a sennight. It’ll take nearly a fortnight to reach the Greek Isles. We’ll sell the Scottish whisky there before moving on. I hope we can find the goods you want in the local markets without having too many stops. I’d prefer to keep my distance from the Saracens. I have no interest in being sold into slavery. Indenture was bad enough.” Keith crossed his arms and sat back in his chair. There had never been an opportunity for Keith and Kyle to earn their way out of working aboard ships. When Rowan and Ruairí became captains, they had a choice for the first time in nearly two decades. With nowhere to go and no one missing them, the twins opted to remain pirates.
“Bah. They wouldn’t want you, anyway. You’ve spent too much time in the sun. You’re not a lily white—” Kyle stopped before he insulted not only the English, but his new family. “Your skin is too dark.”
“I like my golden skin.” Keith stuck out his arm, jokingly examining his skin. “Perhaps the Grecians and Neapolitans will think me one of their ancient gods. Fiery hair and golden skin. I can think of plenty who find it a fetching combination.” Keith’s grin once more made his eyes crinkle, and his white teeth shone.
“Be back here in six sennights, or I will be the one to cut off your cods if I’m forced to go traipsing after you,” Kyle warned. His tone sounded light, but Keith knew his brother wouldn’t forgive him if he forced Kyle to leave Moira to search for him.
“No gallivanting on my part,” Keith swore. While he might have reveled in the entertainment available on land, the dangers of sailing along the Barbary Coast were infinite. He and Kyle experienced the deadliest battles of their lives against the corsairs. He didn’t intend to linger only to make himself a target. “I’m off to my barnacles.”
“You’re off to the lists,” Kyle corrected. The twins exchanged a glance only they understood. The men would spend as much time with one another as they could before Keith departed because they both knew it could be their last hours together.
* * *
Keith winked at the two women who’d helped him pass the evenings between the last clan council meeting and his departure. He couldn’t remember which was Katie and which was Sarah. He wasn’t entirely certain those were their names. But they’d enjoyed themselves without conversation. Keith turned his attention back to the men loading the goods onto his ship and carrying them down to the hold. He kept a running tally in his head of how many barrels of Irish whiskey came aboard, along with the crates of wool. He would trade the oilcloth-wrapped hard cheese with the O’Driscolls for more crates of wool. The wool and alcohol from Ireland and the Hebrides would fetch plenty of coin in Naples and the Greek Isles. Wool wasn’t a rarity like the alcohol, but the Irish wool was thicker and more durable than that found in much of the Mediterranean. The Irish claimed the sheep were hardier since they didn’t bask in year-round sunshine, but survived the bitter cold from the Irish Sea that swept the island.
“Don’t whittle,” Keith muttered to Kyle, who stood beside him. “You’ll only set me on edge.”
“Good. I’m already on edge. Misery loves company.”
“We both know we must do this. If the MacDonnells are your clan, then their business becomes yours—and mine by extension. Moira can’t travel with you while she’s carrying, and it’s far too soon to trust the council to respect her word. Even I don’t trust them not to forget she’s not the woman who fled here. With their help, mind you. She can stand on her own two feet. I worry more that we’d return to half the council in their graves if they try to browbeat her. They need you.” Keith chortled as he looked at his brother. They’d never known who was the elder because their mother claimed she hadn’t been able to tell them apart. Their parents only married when they discovered their mother was with child, and their father abandoned their family, claiming that two squalling babes were more than any man should bear. Even Rowan and Ruairí struggled if the brothers weren’t on their respective ships. Moira was the only one who could.
“And I need you,” Kyle admitted.
“I’ll be back before you can miss me. You’re still too besotted with your bride and spend so much time chasing her to your chamber that you won’t even notice I’m gone.” Keith watched as his crew carried the last of the goods below deck. The tide was with him, so he would have to set sail soon. He met Kyle’s gaze and knew they wore matching expressions of dread. “I need you, too.”
The twins embraced, neither eager to release their hold. It had never been easy when Rowan and Ruairí sailed separately, but they’d always had their captains as their friends and their distraction. Now only Kyle had a confidante and distraction. Keith grinned as he thought that Kyle’s distraction was the best either ever had.
“I’ll still miss you,” Kyle mumbled, reading Keith’s thoughts as easily as they had since they were children. “I love you, brother. Come home.”
“I love you.” The men may not have voiced their sentiment loudly, but they expressed their feelings often. Both their crews knew the men never hesitated to admit their bond, but they were all wise enough not to comment on the fearsome pirates’ softness for one another. They clapped one another on the back as Moira climbed the ramp and stepped on deck.
“Take care, brother,” Moira said as she stepped into Keith’s embrace. Moira’s appearance on Kyle’s ship had been unexpected, and Keith had held some skepticism in the beginning. But it hadn’t taken long for Keith and Moira to grow close, teasing Kyle that they had the good fortune to choose one another as siblings. The comment was more a jab at Moira’s dead brother, Dónal, and her banished sister, Lizzie, but it made them laugh when Kyle scowled.
“Take care of him. He’s lost without me,” Keith jested, forcing the lump in his throat to fall and join the knot in his stomach. He didn’t fear sailing without Kyle, but he couldn’t shake the sense of disquiet. He supposed it would be hardest this first time, but there would be more journeys without Kyle in the future.
“I will. Don’t dillydally, or you will find me at the bow of the Lady Charity when we come looking for you.”
“You will not,” Keith warned, no jest in this tone this time. He didn’t put it past Moira to insist—even stow away—to join the search.
“Then come home.” Moira squeezed tighter. “I love you.”
“I love you too, sister.”
Moira squeaked as the two mountainous men trapped her between them as they exchanged a last embrace. Keith watched as Kyle escorted Moira back to the dock. Moira waved, and once more the twins’ expressions were a match, showing stoicism before their men when their hearts were silently aching. Keith waved before turning toward his crew.
“Raise the mainsail and release the bowlines,” Keith commanded as he walked to the helm. Navigating the MacDonnells’ docks and sailing into the channel would monopolize his attention. He could only spare a glance to his family on land. He admitted to himself that it made it easier to leave them behind. He concentrated on maneuvering the Lady Grace, calling out commands for various sails so that her stern swung clear of the docks. The wind gusted, making their departure swift.
Keith inhaled the tangy saltwater scent, and a sense of calm settled over him. He hadn’t forgotten his family or his sadness, but the open water was where he was most comfortable. The prospect of adventure made his blood pump once more, and eagerness dulled the edges of his pain. He looked back once as Dunluce faded into a shadow on the coast. He reminded himself that he had more than most men he knew. He had a family and two homes—Dunluce and the Lady Grace.
“Braedon,” Keith called out.
“Aye, captain,” the adolescent replied as he scampered toward the mainmast. Braedon was the ship’s barrel man; he had joined Ruairí’s crew much the same way that Keith and Kyle began their lives at sea. Ruairí bought Braedon’s indenture, but only to save the boy’s life. Once aboard the Lady Charity, Ruairí gave Braedon the choice to work or go ashore at the next port. An orphan like Keith and Kyle, he’d chosen to remain with the ship. When Kyle took ownership of the Lady Charity, Braedon stayed aboard, climbing into the crow’s nest as the ship’s lookout. Braedon had eagerly accepted Keith's suggestion that he join the Lady Grace’s crew for this voyage.
As Keith watched Braedon climb the rigging to reach his perch, he smiled. He remembered his time as a barrel man on his first ship. He and Kyle were brought on board as barrel men and cabin boys. They both looked forward to their time in the lofty seat because it was time spared from their first captain’s threats. Their second captain was the cruelest they ever faced, so they both pretended to be seasick when they went to the nest. Sick was safer than afraid; weakness would have gotten them killed. But vomiting from the elevated stand freed them from the duty and meant they could always remain close to one another. It was the only way they survived that crew. They’d run away from that ship and crew when they docked in a small English wharf. Kyle approached a captain, spinning a yarn only a sailor could tell, and got himself hired on. They successfully hid the fact that there were two of them for nearly three months. They’d bounced from one crew to another for years. When a brothel owner duped Rowan and Ruairí into joining a pirate ship rather than a merchant’s, Kyle and Keith had already been aboard for a year.
“Samson.” Keith beckoned his first mate to join him at the wheel. The colossal Black man made his way across the deck, his knees slightly bent as he absorbed the roll and pitch of the waves against the hull. His ebony skin shone in the bright sunlight, his teeth a pure ivory. While Keith and Kyle stood well over six feet and had developed broad shoulders during their time fighting and working the riggings, Samson made them look like mere boys.
“Aye, Capt’n.” Samson’s heavy accent flavored his words as he met Keith at the helm. “We will make fine progress if the wind continues to favor us. We stored everything in the hold, and the men know your orders.”
“Thank you.” Keith looked at his friend and grinned. “I noticed the women grew particularly fond of you.”
“You mean after they ceased their trembling,” Samson grinned. “Once they saw I’m as gentle as a lamb, they appreciated my finer features.”
Samson had become a member of Keith’s crew nearly a year earlier, after Keith and Kyle attacked a slave ship. Samson was one of the African members of the crew, rather than a man in bondage awaiting sale. Though he’d worked for the slaver for years, he was no freer than the men, women, and children Keith and Kyle rescued from the hold. He was fluent in English and an experienced sailor by the time he came aboard the Lady Grace. Given his freedom and treated with respect, Samson chose to join Keith’s crew. He knew he was free to go ashore and stay anytime they made landfall, and he had the right to choose another ship if he wanted. But he’d found respect, loyalty, and independence alongside Keith.
“Would you have me organize the watch?” Samson asked.
“No. I shall do that. Go below to your cabin for a few hours. You have the wheel tonight.”
“Aye, Capt’n.” Samson was a man of few words, but he was jovial and grinned often when talking to Keith. He was deadly serious when working and organizing the crew.
Keith observed Samson as he moved across the deck once more, this time checking a sail Keith had recently ordered repaired. He was pleased he’d promoted Samson to first mate several months ago. The only other man with the experience who he trusted was Skinny, who’d already been part of the Lady Charity’s crew when Ruairí took command of his ship, but Skinny was better suited to being a crew member than an official leader. Keith had been anxious about how the crew would react to Samson taking on the leadership as the second-in-command, but his men nodded and passed around the jugs of whisky, happy to have any reason to celebrate. There was little fealty among the men beyond earning their share of the loot and Keith ensuring they were fed. Skinny moved to the Lady Grace when Rowan and Ruairí reunited because Rowan needed another man. Skinny had remained ever since. He’d proven his loyalty when he and Keith protected Rowan’s wife, Caragh, during an attack and their subsequent capture.
“Braedon, what see you?” Keith called up, shading his eyes from the sun as he tilted his head back.
“Nothing but Capt’n O’Flaherty off the port stern. Nothing on the horizon but the water,” Braedon responded. Keith nodded, wishing he could forget that Aidan O’Flaherty was along for this journey. He’d made his expectations clear the night before while Aidan dined with Keith and his family on the dais. While he’d used veiled warnings and threatening glares to ensure that Aidan understood his position, Moira had been blunt. Since her own relationship with Aidan ended many years ago, she saw no need for him to keep his cock if he crossed her or Keith. The doe-eyed, innocent woman Aidan once seduced was no longer the woman who sat across from him. He was wise to fear Moira and to be wary of the MacLean twins.
“Signal him forward,” Keith ordered. He listened to Braedon’s shrill whistle and watched the boy wave his arm to those on deck of the Baile Diabhail. “The Devil’s Home,” Keith muttered to himself. It was a fitting name for the Aidan’s ship. His dark hair and devilish charm made him a favorite among women wherever he sailed, but Keith knew it was a more apt name because Aidan O’Flaherty was the least trustworthy man he knew. Aidan caused the only truly horrible argument that Ruairí and Senga ever had, and he’d betrayed Moira when she was impressionable and vulnerable. He’d manipulated the MacDonnells and nearly facilitated a marriage between Moira and a man who would have surely killed her. He was the same man who’d bedded Moira’s sister for years and sired a son he generally ignored. Worse yet, he had allowed Lizzie to claim Ruairí was Sean’s father for years. Keith would put nothing past O’Flaherty.
“Ahoy,” Aidan bellowed as his ship inched alongside the Lady Grace. He stood at the rail and waited for Keith to come stand even with him. “Moira looked sad to see you go.”
Keith narrowed his eyes at Aidan, disliking the implication he read there. “She’s my sister now,” he warned.
“But you and Kyle are still brothers. Share and share alike. I thought that was your motto.”
“Just because you regret your choices doesn’t mean I’ll make ones I’ll regret.”
“You certainly wouldn’t regret her. Your brother doesn’t seem to.”
“I won’t regret killing you.”
Aidan sobered as he looked into Keith’s emerald eyes. Aidan knew he was no more intimidating to Keith than he was to Kyle, Rowan, or Ruairí. For all his faults, he’d never tried to scare Moira, and he often rued his decision to abandon her. He nodded as he looked toward the south. They’d been making steady progress, and the wind was increasing. The sails on both ships billowed and snapped. He looked back at Keith again.
“We’re making exceptionally good time,” Aidan noted.
“Aye. But that doesn’t mean we have time to go looking for ships to raid,” Keith countered.
“There’s always time!” Aidan grinned, his blue eyes twinkling in bright contrast to his raven-colored locks.
“Then you do so on your own. If you’re not at Dún na Séad when I arrive, then you will not get your share of the O’Driscolls’ wool, nor will you get any of the MacNeills’ whisky. I won’t wait for you either,” Keith warned. “You can chase your tail, or you can make good on your promise for a guaranteed trade.”
“I could do both.” Aidan continued to grin.
“Maybe. Only one is guaranteed. If you aren’t ready to head to the Med when I do, I will leave you behind.”
“You will not. You won’t sail past Gibraltar alone. You know what happened to Ruairí the last time he tried to sail down there without Rowan. You and Kyle have never sailed there alone. You need me.” Aidan exaggerated the last three words, taunting Keith.
“Like a hole in the head. Who’s to say Fionn wouldn’t prefer to sail with me?”
“Bah. He’ll never leave Dún na Séad,” Aidan jeered as he flapped his hand in front of him. “I doubt he has sea legs anymore.”
Keith opted to remain silent. He and Aidan knew Aidan’s words held no truth. Fionn O’Driscoll was still a man to fear, both on and off the water. After an attack on his keep in Baltimore resulted in a massacre that killed his wife, Aisling, the man grew bitter and reclusive, no longer a menacing force along the southern Irish coast. But he wasn’t to be underestimated, as he’d proven when the Waterford city merchants attempted a second attack a few months after they murdered Aisling. Aidan shifted when Keith didn’t look away.
“I’ll be a boring merchant,” Aidan rolled his eyes. “Until we leave Gibraltar in our wake. Then no promises.”
“You’d do well to mean once we are back in the Atlantic. You will not fare well against the corsairs if you try.”
“The Barbary pirates still have you running scared?” Aidan taunted.
“Sailing wisely,” Keith clarified. “You haven’t had my experiences with them. You’d do well to heed my warning and not enter waters too deep for you to swim.”
Aidan rolled his eyes once more but nodded. “And shall we make a stop to see the O’Malley?”
Aidan snorted. “Hardly. Haven’t you heard? The O’Malley’s gotten her with child. He barely said hello before he dragged her before the priest. He didn’t even stop for a chalice of wine before he hauled her abovestairs.”
“All the more reason to visit. You don’t have to worry about siring another bastard.” Keith clenched his teeth to keep from saying more. Sean, Aidan and Lizzie’s son, was barely eight, but both of his parents had ignored him for most of his life. Even when Aidan had visited Dunluce after publicly acknowledging Sean was his son, he barely paid the boy attention other than to teach him crude songs. Moira had raised the boy, and she and Kyle had adopted him when they made their home among the MacDonnells. Neither Keith nor Kyle could forgive Aidan for abandoning Sean. It was too like their own father abandoning them.
“She was good while I had her, but I find I don’t miss her any more than I ever did. One cunny is as good as another.” Aidan guffawed until he caught sight of Keith’s murderous glare. He snapped his mouth shut, realizing what he’d just insinuated about Moira and Lizzie. “No. I don’t want to see Lizzie. But I would like to see if O’Malley will sell me more weapons.”
“You really think the new O’Malley chieftain is going to do business with you after the debacle you made of your arrangement with his brother Dermot?”
“Business is business. He wants my coin. I want his weapons.”
“And who will you sell them to now? Moira won’t take them.”
“To whoever is the highest bidder. They are one thing that I can guarantee brings a bounty.”
“And you shall pay that to get them,” Keith sneered.
“No. Shay still appreciates getting Lizzie. He may not like her, but she got with child easily enough. That is why he’ll be amenable to a deal that benefits me.”
“You think he’ll reward you for that? And if the child is a lass?”
“Then he’ll have to hope he has better luck next time. But the point is, she proved to be fertile, which is more than he can say about his dead sisters-by-marriage. He’s accomplished what Dermot never did. Besides, she’s a damn good fuck. He should reward me just for that.”
Keith turned his head away in disgust. He couldn’t deny he’d spoken of many women the same way, but it was Aidan’s flippant reminder of his longstanding relationship with Lizzie that grated. The Irishman seemed to easily forget Keith’s loyalty was to Moira, who he’d wronged more than once.
“Just be prepared to sail,” Keith warned before he walked away, leaving Aidan to watch him. He returned to the wheel, taking it back from Skinny. The rest of the afternoon passed slowly. But that didn’t bother Keith because it meant it was uneventful. He wasn’t eager for trouble if Aidan was his only ally.
* * *
“It’s like welcoming Cain and Abel,” Fionn O’Driscoll greeted them. “I suppose I must let you both in.”
The older chieftain grinned at Keith, but his expression morphed into a scowl when he looked at Aidan. He’d greeted them by stepping from a rock he often used to disguise his presence to visitors. It offered him a vantage point where he could observe new arrivals until he was ready to make himself known. Now he sheathed his sword that had been beneath Aidan’s nose and turned toward his home. He huffed as he looked back over his shoulder, his disdain for Aidan clear.
“Old man,” Aidan warned.
“Gasúr.” Boy. Fionn didn’t glance back as he returned Aidan’s insult. “Keep up if you can, with your wee legs running beneath you.” While Aidan was as tall as Keith, they were nearly two inches shorter than Fionn, who was a veritable mountain. Keith fought not to laugh and nearly choked. Fionn’s tone was so dry that the humor wasn’t in his words, but in his delivery. They followed him up the path to the keep, where an attractive young woman awaited them. Aidan flashed a smile that charmed most women, but he stumbled backwards when Fionn’s fist bashed into his nose.
“His daughter,” Keith muttered. He looked at the woman in her early twenties and dipped his head. “Niamh, good day.”
Nee-iv. Daughter of Manannán, god of the sea. A fitting name. If Aidan isn’t careful, he’ll find Fionn sending him to the bottom. Wait until her husband shows up. O-sheen. Not bad for an Irishman.
The young woman’s husband came to stand beside Fionn and Niamh. Keith grinned as he stuck out his arm and grasped the other man’s forearm. The couple had only married a few years ago, but they’d been enamored with one another since they were children. Aidan was inviting his death if he tried to flirt in front of Oisin, aptly named for the mythological Niamh’s poet-lover.
“MacLean,” Oisin greeted Keith. He didn’t spare Aidan a glance but returned his wife’s embrace when she wrapped her arm around his waist. “Come inside. You too, O’Flaherty, before you gather flies.”
“He’s as thick as shite and only half as handy,” Fionn tossed over his shoulder as he made his way to the dais. Keith and Aidan followed the chieftain to the table while Niamh signaled a servant to bring food. She took her seat beside her husband, who sat to Fionn’s right. Keith sat to Fionn’s left, and Aidan filled the next chair down. No one spoke until the servants finished bringing mugs of ale and platters of dried fruit, bread, and cheese. “The MacNeills have come and gone. They couldn’t wait around. There’s been flooding on Barra, so Rowan needed them back.”
“How do Ruairí and Rowan fare?” Keith asked.
“How do you think they are? They each have a wife to keep them in line, and they couldn’t be happier. How’s your brother?”
“Much the same as the MacNeills.” Keith grinned and shook his head. “How the mighty have fallen.”
“In love. Bah,” Aidan scoffed. Keith kicked him beneath the table. It was no secret that Fionn was as devoted to his wife’s memory as he had been the living woman.
“Do you ever shut up?” Keith muttered from the side of his mouth.
“Let him speak. Gives me one more reason to kill him.” Fionn grinned, only jesting in part. While Aidan’s clan hailed from what was once the kingdom of Connacht, along the western coast of Ireland, the O’Driscoll land lay in the former ancient kingdom of Desmond, near Cork. Neither clan was fond of the other. The O’Flahertys usually remained on their side of the island, sailing west rather than east, but Aidan roamed wherever the wind blew. Aidan and his predecessor tried to rival Fionn and the O’Driscolls, but Fionn proved to be the better strategist and, in turn, the better smuggler and pirate. Fionn’s position as chieftain lent him credibility, while Aidan’s clan practically disowned him.
“We can load in the morning and be out with the afternoon tide,” Keith said as he shifted the conversation away from Aidan’s imminent execution. “I’m grateful for your hospitality, but I would like to be underway sooner rather than later.”
“And be home sooner rather than later,” Fionn noted.
Keith nodded as a serving woman filled his chalice. The busty brunette brushed her breasts against Keith’s shoulders and twisted to give him a view of her cleavage as she leaned forward. Keith’s cock twitched at the invitation. His hand slid from his side, up the woman’s skirts and along her inner thigh. But his interest waned when he glanced up at the woman and realized how young she was. He was not in the habit of bedding inexperienced women, and he did not intend to discover if the youthful one standing beside him fell into the category. He liked women accustomed to the rougher nature of coupling, and those who held no expectations afterward. He removed his hand and shook his head. The woman frowned before she shifted her gaze to Aidan. She set her sights on him and left Keith without a second glance.
“I’m not eager for the rough waters along the Strait of Gibraltar. I’d rather have it done with and not have the weather delay us. We’re still in the midst of the Mediterranean’s rainy season, even if it is spring here.”
“True,” Fionn agreed. “Niamh will ensure you have a chamber for the night. In the meantime, we can load the barrels and crates. Do you have my favorite cheese?”
Fionn cracked an uncharacteristic grin which Keith returned. The two men pushed back their chairs, leaving Aidan to enjoy the serving woman now seated in his lap. Oisin joined Keith and Fionn as they made their way back to the docks. The O’Driscoll’s second-in-command called out orders to men along the docks, and it wasn’t long before goods were being transferred and stored aboard the Lady Grace.
“Do you really think it wise to sail with O’Flaherty?” Fionn asked quietly.
“Not at all. But I won’t sail there alone after what happened to Ruairí the last time he made a run near there. And there’s no one else. I wouldn’t ask the O’Malleys, and they prefer to remain among the British Isles anyway. Rowan and Ruairí don’t sail that far anymore. O’Flaherty is the only one I know and can predict.”
“Predict that he’ll leave your arse blowing in the breeze.”
“Predict him to be unreliable, but he knows which side his bread is buttered. He doesn’t want to have to sail all the way to Galway. Aughnanure Castle is clear across Ireland from the waters he prowls. He knows these days he needs the MacDonnells more than they need him. If he crosses me, he’ll have nowhere to store his loot. Moira may live along the Ballycastle coast, but she still holds influence over the MacDonnells of Rathlin Island. They won’t give Aidan shelter any sooner than she if he plays her for a fool. He doesn’t dare go near the Hebrides. Between Rowan and Ruairí on Barra and the MacLeods of Lewis, he knows he’s not welcome.”
“Why can’t the bluidy bastard get lost at sea?” Fionn grumbled.
“Because he has the luck of the devil.”
“And the Devil’s Home should be at the bottom of the sea,” Fionn said, referring to Aidan’s ship as much as he did the man.
“You have my thanks, along with Moira’s, for your continued trade.”
“It’s good business for me.” Fionn downplayed the sentiment, but Keith saw it meant a great deal to the older man. His tired eyes brightened for a moment. “You’ll stop back here before going to Barra or Canna?”
“Aye. I promised Kyle and Moira that I would return within six sennights. With fair weather, it’ll take us five days to get to Gibraltar and the same amount of time back. We’ve already been away from Dunluce for two days. That leaves me a little more than a fortnight to conduct our business if I wish to make stops here, Canna, and Barra. That should be more than enough time to trade in Naples and in the Greek Isles. The only thing Moira specifically asked for is silk. I will also bring back casks of wine. Silk and wine always fetch a pretty penny with the English.”
“Bluidy English,” Fionn snarled.
“I’ll drink to that,” Keith chuckled. “I’ll return here for a couple of days before turning north toward the Hebrides, then back to Ballycastle.”
“I should expect you in three and a half sennights,” Fionn calculated.
“That sounds right.”
“Don’t make me come searching for you,” Fionn warned.
“Kyle said the same thing. So did Moira,” Keith laughed. The two men returned to the keep. Despite casting his gaze across the women in the Great Hall, Keith chose to sleep instead. Keith hammered on Aidan’s door the next morning, finding the Irishman rubbing his bleary eyes and looking confused as he turned back to the woman who wrapped herself around his back when he sat up. Keith shook his head and made his way to the Lady Grace.
“It’s about bluidy time we set eyes on these islands,” Keith said to Samson as they stood together at the bow. The crossing at the Strait of Gibraltar was the worst Keith had ever experienced, the waves pounding against the hulls of Keith’s and Aidan’s ships. The wind pushed them back as they tried to press on. He’d had to order his men to the oars to squeeze between Spain and Gibraltar. The sea might have been calmer on the southern side of the passage, but Keith didn’t intend to get that close to the Barbary Coast of North Africa.
As the men stood together, the West Greek Isles came into view as they sheltered their eyes. Keith opted to sail directly to the most eastern part of the Mediterranean that they would visit, deciding it was more efficient, so Aidan had little choice but to follow. They would visit Naples on their return. The Lady Grace’s crew was tired and eager to put ashore for a few nights. While Keith conducted business with local merchants, the men would rotate between standing watch and visiting brothels. Keith knew to which establishment he would head that evening. Trade could wait until morning.
“Headed to Andromeda’s?” Samson asked.
“We both are,” Keith grinned. “Skinny agreed to oversee the watch in return for three days of shore leave.”
“Fine man, he is. I’ll be sure to toast to him tonight,” Samson’s brilliant teeth shone against his dark skin in the bright sunlight. His skin’s rich ebony hue glistened with a light sheen of perspiration as he crossed his brawny arms over his bare chest. “And will you seek Andromeda herself?”
“She and I—we—” Keith rubbed the back of his neck. “We have a complicated past.”
“Complicated,” Samson guffawed. “The only thing complicated are the positions you two get into.”
“Aye. Then let’s say we have an interesting history. If she’s available and wishes to see me, then I won’t turn her away in favor of anyone else. But neither will I pine if I can’t roger her.”
“I hope to find Amara again. The things that woman can do with her tongue. Enough to make a man cross-eyed.” Samson laughed as he clapped Keith on the shoulder. “Worth every coin and then some. She’ll set me right for at least a moon.”
They could say the same about all the women who worked at the brothel Keith intended to visit. It had been nearly a decade since Keith, Kyle, Rowan, and Ruairí first wandered into the establishment. The sights, sounds, and smells overwhelmed their adolescent senses. The four young men soon discovered that Andromeda’s catered to every taste. The women accommodated all requests and rarely turned away any suggestion.
The prostitutes came from all across the Mediterranean, offering a wealth of selection for whatever a man fancied. They were all exotic and well-trained in the arts of dominance and submission, and the proprietress—Andromeda herself—had taken a special interest in the four Hebrideans. The four callow men discovered they had similar tastes. Tastes that ran toward dominance. After years of subservience to remain alive, each of them found freedom in learning how to pleasure women while finally gaining a sense of control.
Keith knew Kyle and Moira shared a relationship that offered the freedoms they each needed: Kyle to dominate, and Moira to submit. Neither Keith nor Kyle ever imagined they would find mates who shared a similar penchant, but they’d realized it was possible once they saw Rowan and Caragh, and Ruairí and Senga. Keith was still unconvinced that he would find a woman who would accept marrying a pirate with an itchy palm and a creative mind. He couldn’t imagine there were that many left in the world. He wondered if he could suppress that part of his nature now that he’d given it free rein for so many years. He’d found bed partners in the British Isles who welcomed a spanking and roughness, but he hadn’t dared share the depths of his desires. He feared frightening them and having them run to their priest, accusing him of being unnatural.
“We go ashore in three hours, once the sun sets,” Keith ordered as he turned back to his crew. It would take them at least an hour to sail into port and dock. Both law and propriety demanded he visit the harbormaster if he were to trade legitimately on the first island. He would order the men to raise the marque of the Earl of Argyll. He and Kyle inherited the right to claim they were privateers rather than pirates when they accepted their ships. They had the same arrangement with the Earl of Argyll as the MacNeill cousins had. The twins paid a healthy tax to the man semi-annually in exchange for the right to raise his standard, giving them the right to raid and capture ships in the earl’s name. It was a fine line between piracy and privateering, but the endorsement kept Keith and Kyle’s heads on their shoulders and welcomed them into ports that would normally refuse them.
* * *
“Blade.” The word rolled off the voluptuous woman’s tongue like hot honey. It was a sound Keith had heard countless times since his first visit to the woman’s brothel. “You have been away too long.”
“I have, Andromeda. But I am here now,” Keith replied as the woman pressed her breasts against his chest and cupped his hardening length.
“Every bit of you,” Keith murmured as he bent toward the exposed breast and flicked Andromeda’s nipple with his tongue. His fingers found the other bare nipple and pinched painfully. The pressure increased at she rubbed her palm over Keith’s cock. “Are you available?”
“As much as I wish I could say yes, I can’t. I have a client already waiting, and he paid three days ago.” Andromeda admitted before tugging on Keith’s earlobe with her teeth. “But it is you I will be thinking about now. It will make up for his tiny cock that can barely find my quim. I’ll imagine it’s you while I pleasure myself.”
“Perhaps find me when he surely passes out.”
“I will. Do you wish for your regular room or will you remain in the salon?”
Keith looked around, noticing that Samson had already found Amara, a petite blonde whose legs were already around Samson’s waist as he thrust into her. Neither cared who watched, but many men fisted themselves as they enjoyed the show. Keith’s gaze skipped past the men and assessed each of the women. They possessed various shades of hair, eye, and skin color. His gaze alighted on a woman far younger than he usually considered, but she clearly worked in the brothel. She could hardly be inexperienced, Keith figured.
“Serafina is a beauty, but she can’t offer all that you expect,” Andromeda warned.
“Why is that?”
“Her virginity is for sale. You don’t care for virgins.”
“You mean she doesn’t work here?”
“Of course she does. She wishes to eat and have a roof over her head. She possesses many skills, but she also possesses her maidenhead.”
“And if I can live without rutting in a cunny? You know I prefer not to.”
“My ladies are clean,” Andromeda snapped.
“But I refuse to sire any bastards.”
“She’s still not for you,” Andromeda said with narrowed eyes.
Keith glanced at the brothel owner he’d known for nearly a decade. He’d seen her in various moods, but today she seemed short tempered while they had a conversation they’d shared countless times. Keith looked at the other unattached women, pointing to a woman he recalled from a previous visit. While Andromeda went to speak to the black-haired woman he selected, his attention returned to the young woman Andromeda called Serafina. She had deep auburn hair, a little browner than Keith’s fiery mane. Sensing him staring, she looked away from the man who’d begun nuzzling her neck as she sat in his lap. Serafina’s almond-shaped eyes held Keith captive. They were seductive, slightly tilted upward at the edges. They were dark, but he couldn’t be certain of their hue from a distance. Her lips were a perfect shade of red, and Keith suspected that unlike many of the women, the color was natural.
Keith’s cock pulsed as he watched the man’s hand slide over Serafina’s breast before kneading the flesh. She didn’t possess large breasts, but they were full and sat high against her chest. Her attention returned to the customer as he suckled. She arched her back as her eyes drifted closed, the move of a practiced seductress. But she caught the man’s wrist when he pulled her skirts over her knees. She whispered something to him and found herself being pushed from his lap. She stumbled but caught herself. Keith was across the room in five strides, capturing her hands.
“Do you speak English?” Keith asked in Greek.
“Yes,” Serafina answered in English. “Thank you.”
Keith and Serafina stood staring at one another, Keith still holding her hands. He rarely kissed his bed partners, the positions he preferred making it infeasible. But he had an overwhelming urge to capture Serafina’s mouth in a passionate kiss, biting her plump bottom lip. The man stood from behind Serafina and pushed her in Keith’s direction as he stepped around them. Serafina’s body pressed against Keith’s. His sword rubbed against her sheath, making them both catch their breath.
“Blade,” Andromeda said from over his shoulder, irritation lacing her tone. “Fantasia is ready for you.”
Keith dropped Serafina’s hands, inexplicably embarrassed that the young woman should hear who he would bed that night. But she offered him a warm smile and nodded her chin in the direction of the raven-haired prostitute.
“You will enjoy,” Serafina whispered as she stepped around Keith, but she hadn’t taken two steps before Andromeda snagged her arm in a punishing grip.
“Bring out the extra trays and serve the wine. There’s a mess in the kitchens for you to clean. Only then will I find you someone’s cock to suck,” Andromeda ordered. The proprietress’s words made Keith flinch, unprepared to hear such a crass comment directed to a woman who looked far too innocent to possess such skills. But Serafina didn’t even blink. She nodded her head and turned away. Andromeda shifted her attention to Keith. “I told you she wasn’t for you.”
“I know, and I didn’t ask for her. She nearly fell. I merely helped her.”
“Such chivalry from a pirate,” Andromeda smirked. Her demeanor was not only unalluring, it was also rapidly irritating Keith. He followed Andromeda and the woman he’d learned was Fantasia into a chamber he knew well. He looked around, finding the implements and tools he anticipated using with his bed partner. Andromeda pressed herself against Keith once more and whispered, “Leave a little milk for this kitten to lap up.”
Keith gave a jerky nod, surprised at how his ardor for Andromeda had cooled since she first greeted him. Her brusqueness toward him and Serafina rankled. Intent upon enjoying his evening, he moved across the chamber to Fantasia. He drew the back of his fingers over her pebbled nipple thrice as she moaned. With no forewarning, he painfully tweaked the tight bud and twisted. Her body swayed toward him as she pulled at the laces to his leggings. He didn’t stop her when she dropped to her knees. Her tongue flicked out and swirled the tip of his cock before her lips engulfed his length. Keith let her work his shaft until he was certain she could manage his girth. He tangled his hand in her hair and pressed her face toward him, thrusting his hips forcefully, enjoying the sounds that came from her throat as she swallowed the head of his cock. It wasn’t long before the need to climax took hold. He intended to get this first release over with so he could draw out his—and her—pleasure that evening.
“Captain,” Fantasia purred. Keith helped her to her feet and spun her toward the bed.
“Get undressed. Stand at the foot of the bed,” Keith commanded. The soft tone he’d used with Serafina was long forgotten. The voice of a captain echoed in the quiet chamber. He made his way to a bureau of drawers and pulled open the top one, withdrawing silk scarves and a coil of rope. He moved to the third drawer and retrieved the riding crop he knew he would find there. He returned to Fantasia, lifting and tying one arm then the other, to the bedposts as she stood before him. He nudged her legs farther apart until he could bind her ankles to the bed. He checked the scarves’ tautness now that they spread the whore like a starfish. He brought the riding crop down across her buttocks, leaving behind a pink welt. “What is your word?”
Keith nodded, setting to memory the word that would cease all their play if Fantasia uttered it. He came to stand at her left side, the crop still in his right hand. His fingers on his left hand burrowed through the thatch of dark curls hiding her mons. His fingers thrust into the dripping sheath, the force wringing a cry from her. The riding crop landed across her flesh again. Keith alternated spanks and thrusts until Fantasia writhed before him. Ducking his head beneath her arm, he latched on to her nipple, clamping his teeth down as he rapidly rubbed her pleasure button and continued to spank her. He felt her core tighten around his fingers as she swayed with each blow until she screamed her release. Fantasia’s head lolled to the side as she fought to catch her breath. Keith stepped back, stroking his erect cock. His bollocks ached like he hadn’t just found his release minutes earlier.
Keith lowered himself to his knees, pulling Fantasia’s body away from the bed, so he could squeeze between her hips and the mattress. He set his tongue to work as he brought her to the precipice over and over, but never allowed her to spend. When he knew he pushed the limits of her endurance, he quickly released her from her bindings and crawled onto the bed. Fantasia only needed the flick of his fingers to signal her to straddle Keith’s hips. She rubbed her dew over his cock, but before she could sink her sheath onto him, he flipped her around and brought her onto all fours. He ran his finger over her rosebud, then pressed until the tip slipped in.
“Can you?” Keith panted.
“Anything you desire, Captain.”
Keith grasped Fantasia’s hips and thrust into her back passage. He’d known her answer, but he still sought her permission. It was clear she’d engaged in the same carnal activity countless times, since there was no resistance when he entered her. Keith pounded into her over and over. Racing toward the cliff, Keith looked up and stared at the wall. He was certain he saw movement through the spyhole he knew existed there. He’d been on the other side of the wall for a sennight straight when he and the others first learned about the pleasurable implements used at Andromeda’s. He, his brother, and the MacNeills all watched women with their clients as they learned how to free their dominant natures.
Having an audience bothered Keith not at all. He wasn’t with a woman who was unaccustomed to being watched, nor did he hold any type of possessive or protective sentiments toward her. He continued to watch the tiny hole until he was certain an eye returned to it.
If a show is what you wish and fucking is what I want, then that is what shall happen.
Keith increased the pace and urgency of his thrusts until it forced Fantasia onto her elbows, unable to bear her weight on her hands. He reached a hand around her and once again rubbed the button until she cried out. Keith pulled free, stroking himself until his seed spewed forth and coated Fantasia’s backside, dribbling along the crease. But his attention wasn’t on Fantasia. He watched whoever watched him.
“Remain here,” Keith whispered. Fantasia collapsed onto her side; her eyes closed as she gasped for air. Keith prowled toward the dresser as though he intended to find the next device he planned to use. But at the last minute, he stepped to the wall and pressed a hidden lever. A door popped open into the chamber, and Keith stepped into the dark corridor that was hidden between rooms. He saw a figure in the shadows and reached out. It was a woman’s wrist he found.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...