Read The Red King Online

Authors: Rosemary O'Malley

Tags: #gay, #gay romance, #romance historical, #historical pirate romance, #romance action adventure, #romance 1600s, #male male romance, #explicit adult language and sexual situaitons

The Red King

BOOK: The Red King
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THE RED KING
Rosemary O’Malley

 

 

Smashwords Edition

 

Copyright 2012 Rosemary O’Malley

Cover design by Laura Carboni

Edited by Shannon Ryan

Smashwords Edition, License
Notes

 

This eBook is licensed for your
personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given
away to other people. If you would like to share this book with
another person, please purchase an additional copy for each
recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or
it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to
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hard work of this author.

 

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved
above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or
introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or
by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or
otherwise), without prior written permission of both the copyright
owner and the above publisher of this book.

 

Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places and incidents are either the product of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously; any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or
locales is entirely coincidental.

 

DEDICATION

This book is dedicated to Mary Ellen, my
inspiration and my lifeline, David, my most favorite romantic
leading man, Steph, who bailed me out and kicked my ass when
necessary, and the dashing heroes of my youth, from Robin Hood to
D’Artangan, Percy Blakeney to Peter Blood.

 

Special dedication to Cullen and Rowan, for
there is no better motivation.

 

Prologue

The corsairs claimed he grew out of the
bowels of the ship itself as a demon, a
jinn
, whose
beastlike form he took for the slaughter. He struck silent, fast,
killing most of the crew before the first body was found. He and
the other men who took the ship threw the last of the living
members overboard with their dead shipmates. They renamed the ship
Taibhse
—ghost, in the Irish tongue. From that point forward,
he was called Captain.

After taking a ship full of captives bound
for the block off the coast of Majorca, one of the liberated was
heard to call him “
Murchadh
.” It meant sea warrior,
appropriate for his triumph. Those he rescued he delivered to the
port of Algiers where many made their own way. Some stayed with
Captain, swearing loyalty to his flag until they met their own
end.

He was most often called “
Ruaidhri
,”
or The Red King. His penchant for wearing his fiery hair long and
uncombed added a touch of romance to his deeds. He was a careful
ransomer, keeping the women and children safe, honoring the aged,
respecting those who showed respect. For those who did not, they
would have no tales to tell, for dead men cannot speak. All who
left his charge spoke of his gallantry alongside his brutality. Men
thought him something of a
bon sauvage
. The women found him
handsome and compelling, but their stories always lacked a
certain…outrage.

When the papers were sealed condemning him a
pirate, they simply read “Rory or Rorik, also known as The Red
King.”

 

PART ONE: ANDREW
Chapter One


Áve María, grátia pléna, Dóminus técum.
Benedícta tu in muliéribus, et benedíctus frúctus véntris túi,
Iésus. Sáncta María, Máter Déi, óra pro nóbis peccatóribus, nuncet
in hóra mórtis nóstrae. Ámen.”

Chink.


Áve María, grátia pléna, Dóminus técum.
Benedícta tu in muliéribus, et benedíctus frúctus véntris túi,
Iésus. Sáncta María, Máter Déi, óra pro nóbis peccatóribus, nuncet
in hóra mórtis nóstrae. Ámen.”

Chink.
He moved forward to
the next link. His chains were now his instrument of prayer.

“Boy, if you don’t shut your mouth, I’ll cut
your lips off.”

A knife was on his chin. Andrew kept his eyes
closed, but muted his prayers.
Blessed Mother, take me from this
torment. If my death need be, please hasten its approach. I beg
you, do not abandon me to these men.

“You can’t cut him, Acklie, don’t even touch
him. We did not keep him clean and sweet just for you,” another man
said. It was a voice Andrew recognized.

The knifepoint traced his bottom lip. “Aye,
clean and sweet, indeed…Come on, pretty, show us your eyes.”

Andrew stiffened when the knifepoint ran up
his cheek, resting at the corner of his eye. Acklie’s foul breath
blew across his face, causing him to wince. “Now, pretty.” The
sharp point dug and Andrew obeyed.

Acklie’s face was only inches from his. It
was scarred from scalp to chin on the right side, as if it had been
painted by flames. One eye was scarcely open, but it was filmy and
blind and did no good anyway. There was no hair, no eyebrow; nearly
the entire right side was a swatch of gnarled, damaged flesh. The
smile directed on him was pulled tight into a grimace that well
suited the lascivious nature with which he licked his lips. If
there had not been such cruel hunger in the man’s eyes, Andrew
would have felt pity.

The other man came closer but all Andrew
could make out in the shadows was a dark figure in plain cloth. He
spoke with the voice of privilege. “He’s a special gift for Maarten
himself, from the Saracen ship. How they got him, I have no notion.
They said he was meant to be a priest and that he’s untouched, and
that they even had to kill a few of their own men to keep him in
said condition.”

“A priest, my arse,” Acklie muttered, his
expression queerly intense. “Boy’s got lips made for polishin’ my
bell-end. I’d say it needs some spit an’ shine, right now.”

Acklie’s thumb crooked behind Andrew’s lower
teeth and forced his mouth open. He pulled until Andrew was face
down in his lap. The smell was wretched, like rotten meat in an old
latrine. Andrew felt his stomach lurch but it had already emptied
thrice over.

There was a motion, something swift and
sudden that caused Acklie to straighten. “I will not tell you
again, Acklie. This one is to
remain
untouched. Ease
yourself upon the woman, if you must, but keep your hands off
him.”

Acklie’s hand opened. “Aye,” was all he
said.

Released, Andrew sprung up and away. Acklie
was motionless; smiling though the other man had a knife of his own
and was holding it at Acklie’s throat. Pushing himself into the
corner, Andrew drew his knees to his chest and pressed his forehead
to his hands, resuming his prayers in a desperate whisper until
someone spoke in his ear.

“Acklie sails his ship south and I go to my
own. My word will keep the men from stuffing you with their pricks.
It will not, however, keep them from running you through should you
cause trouble. Look at me and tell me you understand.”

Andrew looked. The other man now knelt next
to him, familiar but not comforting. His dark-skinned captors had
given him to this man, a liaison to Andrew’s understanding. The
liaison had black hair, clean and shining in the half-light,
swarthy skin, and was smooth faced. He would have been handsome had
Satan himself not stared out through his cold, gray eyes. Andrew
nodded.

“Pray, if you must. Pray for a hundred days.
There is no help coming for you.” The man left, taking the lantern
with him.

Taking up his chains, Andrew began the
Áve
María
once more, even as he wept.

There was no way to track the passage of time
in his small, dark space. The only refuge he had was sleep and that
he did, finding it hard to remain awake even frightened and
desperate as he was. He was given water, some bread, and his bucket
was cleaned rather punctually, but he never saw much more than a
sliver of light and a featureless shadow brining his rations.

When he was lucid, Andrew suspected he was in
a hidden compartment. Sounds were distant except when the small
hatch was opened. He could hear muffled voices and the heavy fall
of boots on the planks above him. None of his own cries were
answered and only served to leave his voice raw, a mere rasp. Lying
quiet now, on his side with his arms wrapped around his knees,
Andrew felt numb. He could not even find the strength to pray
anymore, for all his frantic appeals had gone unanswered.

His prayers had been for the captain of the
small brigantine carrying them to the Spanish coast. The man had
been kind, had spoken fondly of his son and his wife and their
dogs. He had been one of the first to fall, neither flinching nor
cursing when he was struck by a boarding axe. Such a brave man he’d
been, a good man, ordering Andrew to hide even as he bled to
death.

Then Andrew crouched in the hold, his beads
clutched in his hand and words of supplication spilling from his
lips. His head still rang with the sound of steel hitting flesh.
Father Armand, beloved mentor and who had raised Andrew from a
babe, committed his final sacrifice by throwing himself in front of
Andrew. A life of peace ended on a curved sword. The others fell,
also; all around him Andrew heard their cries as they were stabbed
and cut and beaten. Brother George reached to take Andrew’s hand
before the light left his eyes and then Andrew was pulled away.

He had prayed for his own rescue, even as he
was dragged to the deck of the ship. His clothes had been torn from
him, hands spreading him, stretching his arms and legs wide.
“No…please…” he had begged. His tears were laughed at, his pleas
ignored. He shut his eyes tight and asked God to take him.

When warm blood splashed across his face,
Andrew thought his prayer for death had been granted. Instead his
attackers fell atop him, bleeding and screaming as they were slain
by their shipmates. Their bodies were dragged away and tossed
overboard, some of them not even dead. Darkness has swamped
Andrew’s vision, then, as his fear and shock overcame his
strength.

He’d revived to the feeling of hands on him
once more and he’d cried out, struggled against their hold. This
time he was merely examined: hair, eyes, teeth, groin and the
sensitive space between his buttocks. All the while he wept and
prayed. He was left in a huddle on the deck, naked and trembling.
He heard a heavy footfall and raised his eyes to the man who stood
over him; the liaison

The man grabbed his chin, raising his face
higher. After a moment of intense scrutiny, a swipe of the thumb
across his lips, and an assessing gaze on his youthful body, the
man released Andrew.

“Clean him. Get him clothed. The harrier can
take him north, Acklie can take the others.”

Buckets of icy water, straight from the sea,
were dumped over him until he shuddered. Still chattering, a
shapeless, high-necked sheath of plain muslin was forced upon him.
Bound hand and foot, Andrew was thrown over the shoulder of a large
seaman for passage across the plank. Without a word, the man
carried him down into the hold, laid him on the floor, and
exchanged his fibrous bonds for metal ones.

For an instant, their eyes met, and Andrew
thought he saw something like pity in the other man’s gaze. He held
up his hands, pleading for mercy, for freedom. Those eyes, dark and
sad, turned away. The door closed.

Andrew’s last bit of light had come when
Acklie and the other man had arrived to bolt his shackles to the
floor. When the hatch was closed, the small room was dark as night.
The air grew stale. He could not stand up nor fully stretch out.
And though he wished for death, he ate the bread and drank the
water when it was given, unable to simply forfeit his life. That
was when he stopped praying and cursed his cowardice.

From seemingly far away, there came a
thunderous clap and the ship tilted sharply, enough to make him
slide into the cell’s wall. He could not hear voices, but the
cannons shook the deck beneath him. The ship rolled to the other
side; he had to brace his feet against the walls to prevent being
thrown again.

Attacking…we must be attacking another
ship…

As he realized this, there was a sharp crack
and the top portion of his cell was blown open. Shards of wood flew
at his face, cutting him, missing his eyes only by chance. After
wiping the blood from his vision, he could see out into the hold.
Cannon shot tore through whatever lay before it, leaving bodies,
limbs and viscera to greet him. Some fell in on him, painting him
with more blood. It was then he smelled the smoke.

“Help!” Andrew screamed, voice still weak,
struggling against his shackles. “Please, someone help me!”

His shackles held him to the floor; he
couldn’t stand, couldn’t even raise his hands to thrust them
through the hole. The smoke thickened and he choked on it, but
still continued to twist and pull. His wrists were torn and
bleeding but remained bound.

BOOK: The Red King
11.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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