Stories and excerpts

Excerpt: Alone With The Captain

Astray‘s release is just one month away. Because of that, I’d like to share a short excerpt from the book with you today. In this scene, Nick has been part of Captain Hart’s crew for just a few days. He is still struggling to find his place, and trying to understand what the Captain wants from him.

When supper is over and the sun has begun to set, Hill asks Nick to bring a message to Hart.

Goldie, listening in, slaps Nick’s shoulder when he hears. “Wouldn’t want to go in there myself. Seems he’s in one of his moods today.”

Nick thinks of this as he waits outside the Captain’s cabin.

“Yes?” Hart calls from the opposite side of the door.

“Sorry, sir,” Nick blurts out as soon as he steps into the room. “Mr. Hill said to bring word. They emptied another barrel of hardtack tonight. There are six left.”

Hart is sitting at the table with the book open in front of him again. The sunlight is fading, and the room is a little too dark to read, but the candlesticks aren’t lit. “Thank you.”

Nick turns to leave.

“Wait. Now that you are here… how are your sewing skills?”

Nick turns around to answer Hart’s question. “Fine, sir.”

Hart stands and walks over to the bed to get something. The bed-hangings obscure the view but then Hart pulls out a dark bundle of fabric—his coat. He strides to the window and places the coat on the low leather bench. Comes back to the bed to rummage through a chest underneath it. “I tore it on a nail earlier. I had meant to mend it tonight but I don’t think I can find the time.” He finds what he has been searching for—a needle and thread.

Nick is reminded of Hart telling him off for idling earlier. The pad of his thumb is still tender from working on the sails. At least this time the cloth isn’t as hard to work with as canvas.

“Sit here.” Hart places the items on top of the coat, before returning to his book. “You will need the light.”

Nick sits. The bench is upholstered—a comfort he isn’t used to. He runs the fabric of the coat between his fingers. It is wool, pitch black and lined with some fine, thin material Nick does not know. Cotton? His fingertips find the tear quickly—a sliver of lining bursting through on the left side, right beneath the pocket. He works, the same way he used to in the winters when his mother’s hands were dull from ache and he and Jamie split such chores between them. The coat’s embroideries mock him with their silver threads, their shine and fancy. Like taunting voices from inside a world he can never enter.

Hart takes no more notice of him. He sits with his back turned and neck bowed down, focused on his work. Occasionally he lifts the quill or turns a page. The faint light makes his shirt appear whiter and his hair almost black, where it rests against his collar. If he’s in a foul mood or not, Nick can’t tell, but it’s a relief when he’s done with his task, the tear made undone with a net of stitches.

“It’s finished, sir.”

Hart comes over. Takes the coat from Nick, examines it. He frowns, and Nick braces himself for a scolding.

“Good.” Hart runs his fingertip over the mending. “Thank you. You may leave.”

Nick does as he is told. But he hesitates at the door and turns to glance at Hart again. The Captain is holding the coat in front of him still. Like he is searching for holes or broken seams. Or like he’s deep lost in thoughts.

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Release day! + snippet

The release date for Entertaining the Sombrevilles has finally come. I’m so excited, and so grateful that it’s happening. This has been my dream since I was in my teens, though to be honest I don’t think I ever imagined being published in English. It’s beyond what I thought was possible then.

To celebrate today, I thought I’d share with you a snippet from the book. This is from a scene where Lucas, the youngest of the Sombrevilles, has escaped from a dinner party together with a handsome stranger:

~~~

While his siblings were leaving the dining hall together with the other guests, Lucas Sombreville sneaked into the garden in the company of Giles Perry, Viscount Atherton. Atherton had made it quite clear, from the first time their eyes met in the hall earlier, that Lucas was his number one priority tonight. The other guests around their table probably saw it as nothing other than an older man’s genuine interest in a boy who seemed destined for a bright future, maybe reminiscing on his own adolescent years and the dreams he once had.

For all Lucas knew, Atherton might have some nostalgic reason for being drawn to him. His main interest, though, was something else entirely and Lucas sighed contentedly when they were finally outside and Atherton pulled him into an embrace.

“I could lose my entire career for this,” the man groaned, strong fingers digging into Lucas’s hair. “You’re practically a schoolboy.”

“I am a schoolboy,” Lucas said, and Atherton groaned even louder.

“I should go back inside,” he said, “I really should. Christ, my wife is in there. And my father-in-law.”

Lucas had been introduced to Lady Atherton earlier: a pointy-nosed, decidedly unpleasant woman. He had not been the least surprised to learn that she counted herself as one of Lady Blackford’s closest friends.

“Please don’t,” he said, tugging at the man’s lapel. “You promised you’d show me the view.”

“Oh, my dear, I’d show you anything.” Atherton cupped Lucas’s face in his hands. His eyes were a light grey, almost the same shade as his hair. “Just let me kiss you and you can have anything you wish for.”

Lucas let him. Atherton’s lips were dry and warm, his breath tinged with wine. They were still on the stairs leading down from the back terrace and the thought of how easily they might be spotted excited Lucas even more. Atherton must have thought of it too, for he ended the kiss and took Lucas by the hand.

“Come with me, it’s too risky… it’s all too risky…” But he kissed Lucas again before they were even off the stairs, pushing him against the wall and running his hands along Lucas’s chest and belly.

“Oh, sir,” Lucas moaned, knowing exactly what men like Lord Atherton wanted most of all. “I-I’ve never…”

Atherton’s hips pushed forward and Lucas grabbed him by the shoulders just to keep himself from reaching down the man’s trousers. Might spoil the illusion.

“Don’t worry, my darling.” Atherton’s voice was so thick with arousal Lucas could hardly make out the words. “Don’t you worry about a thing.”

“You will take care of me, won’t you?”

Atherton kissed his forehead, his nose, his cheeks. Hands sneaked inside Lucas’s jacket and stroked his back and shoulder blades. “I will, dear, I will.”

~~~

Get the book here or here to find out what happens next!

AU short story: Skyline

I’ve written lots of short stories recently, as I’ve told you before, and some of these are for an AU part of the Wavesongs verse, where Captain Hart has turned into Mr Hart, a wealthy corporate leader, and Chris into his young intern. I write AU:s sometimes because it’s fun, and it’s liberating because you don’t have to stick to your usual timeline, you can do whatever you feel like. Now, these stories are silly and they don’t make much sense, but I still want to share one with you today. It might give you a sense of what the characters are like in the novel, at least. So here goes:

Skyline

(Rating: PG)

”Come in.”

Chris stepped inside, took tiny steps so as not to spill any coffee on the exclusive rug in Mr Hart’s office. Nina, the secretary, had handed him a couple of letters on his way in and the only way he’d been able to take them with him was to hold them between his teeth. Fuck. He looked like a complete idiot, and this the morning after he’d sent that stupid text.

See you tomorrow.

Looking forward to it.

Who wrote something like that to their boss? Chris did, apparently, after a few rounds with Alec and the lads by the poker table. He hadn’t even been that drunk, which was the most embarrassing part of it all. He’d just sort of… felt like it.

“Oh, let me help you with that!” Mr Hart hurried forward, tried to suppress a laugh as he took the coffee tray and the letters. “Nina’s hopeless… she could’ve easily given me those herself.”

“Thank you, sir,” Chris said, putting the stack of newspapers and the brown paper bag from the nearby Starbucks down on the desk. “I got the bagels like you asked… the ones with goat’s cheese and arugula, you still like those the best, right?”

Mr Hart sat down. Smiled at him. Was he going to say something about the text? Chris had been working in his office for six months, but he still couldn’t read the man.

“Take a seat,” Mr Hart said. “Just look at you, all worn out already, and it’s barely eight o’ clock. You work harder than anyone else in here, you know.”

“I really don’t.” Praise? Mr Hart had never scolded him for anything, but praise was equally rare.

“I take it you got home safely last night, then.” Mr Hart removed the Starbucks mugs from the tray, and threw it in the bin. “I did worry about you for a moment or two, when I got that text and thought you might’ve had too much to drink.”

“Well, yeah,” Chris said, too quickly. “You know what it’s like, out with the boys… I don’t really, um, remember texting. Sorry if I woke you up, sir.”

“Oh, you didn’t wake me. Never getting enough sleep is, well, one of the many drawbacks of my position. But that text made me smile, Chris, so thank you. Whether you recall sending it or not.”

Chris thought of what he’d written. Wished he really had forgotten. “Yeah, I know it was stupid. I mean, I can guess. Glad you got a laugh out of it, though.”

Mr Hart was silent for so long Chris had to look at him, only to see the kind, serious expression on his handsome face. “Stupid? Dear God, no, that’s not what I meant. Not at all. You… you made me happy. Thinking you might actually mean what you wrote last night, made me happy.”

Chris sat there opposite him, thoughts racing through his head. Happy. For six months he’d waited for Mr Hart to even notice him, as more than a new intern who’d soon be replaced by someone else. You made me happy. “I… I like working for you, sir.”

A mug was pushed his way, and Mr Hart carefully placed one of the napkin-wrapped bagels in front of him. “Here. You haven’t had breakfast either, have you?”

“But you asked me to bring this stuff yesterday,” Chris said. “I thought you had a meeting with someone.”

“I did.” Mr Hart took his mug, tasted the macchiato. “With you.”

Chris bit into his bagel – had been hungry ever since he left home at seven. “Me?”

“We’ve never had time to sit down like this, just you and me. Don’t you think that’s strange? After six months in the same office. And I’m supposed to be teaching you everything.”

“You’re a very busy man.”

Mr Hart chuckled. “Oh, I am. Far too busy for my own good, but that’s another story. See, Chris, I picked you for this internship myself. We had tons of applications, but I wanted it to be you. So the least I could do is make sure you get the most out of your time here, don’t you agree?”

“I suppose,” Chris said. He’d had no idea he was handpicked by Mr Hart himself.

Mr Hart was silent for a moment, sipping his coffee. Broad-shouldered under his black Prada suit, with the city skyline glowing red behind him, he looked every bit the successful businessman he was. “Don’t you want to know why I chose you?” he said at last.

“Yeah, I do.”

Mr Hart smiled. Looked like he couldn’t decide which words to use. “Well, firstly, I saw your potential, of course. We’re always looking for people who might be of value to the company after their internship is over and… you haven’t let us down so far, Chris. But I had other reasons. Some rather selfish ones, if you will.”

“Like what?”

Mr Hart got up from his seat. Went over to the window, turned to watch the burning sky.

“You’re a handsome boy, I thought… it would cheer me up, having you around every day. And it has.”

Chris had sort of hoped Mr Hart might be gay, had heard a few rumours here and there. Was this proof?

“But ever since you started working here, I’ve come to enjoy your company more and more. And I’ve tried not to, because not doing anything is the only sensible option.”

Chris got to his feet. “Why?”

Mr Hart did not turn around. “Because I’m thirty-three, Chris, and you’re a twenty-year-old boy.”

“Twenty-one!”

And because I’m your boss. Which is why it would be awfully unethical and, apart from that, I wouldn’t want people to start talking.”

Chris went up to him. Put a hand on his arm, didn’t let go. “But…?”

Mr Hart sighed. “Go back to your seat, Chris. Please.”

“What if I don’t want to?”

“Oh, for God’s sake, then stay. No touching, though, not… not here. Like I said, I don’t want people to find out.”

Chris removed his hand. Mr Hart was right; everything in this building was made of glass. Nina would have a field day with something like this, and Chris wasn’t eager to go back to working at his local Sainsbury’s, far away from the city. “Sorry.”

Mr Hart glanced at him, softness in his dark eyes. “Don’t ever say sorry for doing something like that. Let’s just… let’s just pretend we’re admiring the skyline, okay? And while we’re doing that, I might just happen to ask to take you out to dinner this weekend. No need to answer now. But I’d be thrilled if you said yes.”

“Are you crazy?” Chris said, eyes still on the skyscrapers in the distance. “It’s a yes. It’s a very, very quick and definite yes.”

“Good.” Mr Hart went back to his desk, sat down again. Motioned to Chris to come sit down as well. “Friday at seven, my car will come pick you up.”

They exchanged a smile; a smile that made Chris feel like his body had suddenly turned to jelly. Friday wasn’t even two days away, and it still felt like an eternity.

“Now for those budgetary reports,” Mr Hart said, every bit the corporate leader again. “Did Nina get notice from the board, or should I give Mr Yamamoto a call?”

He was already checking the notifications on his phone, rummaging through the files scattered over his desk. Concentrated, focused on another workday.

But when he looked up at Chris, he was still smiling.