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The Pirate Queen's Captive
Author: Eve Langlais

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

I killed my first man when I was eleven.

It was my father, a mean drunk who beat me, my mother, and pretty much anyone who got on his bad side. It should be noted that he didn’t have a good one.

The night I ended his reign of terror, he’d returned home in a particularly foul mood. From my cubby in the rafters, I heard him bellowing. Complaining, as usual. According to him, the world conspired to bring him down, and he insisted that my mum abetted those working against him.

Not even remotely close to true. My mum, a quiet woman, worked hard and had little time for plotting—or her only child. She took her beatings with resignation because fighting back only served to anger my father further.

I refused to be a victim of his rages. I never meekly accepted the fists or kicks without at least trying to get away. The few times I managed to land a blow my father made me regret it—a puny boy no match for a grown man. Each bruise only steadied my resolve that I’d fight harder the next time.

That fateful night, I lay in my ragged blanket and listened to my father blustering and banging around. It didn’t take long before he started beating Mum. She didn’t utter a word in her defense, not even a whimper. despite the meaty thuds of his fists connecting.

I lay there, my fists clenched, anger building with each blow.

Why won’t she fight back? A part of me understood that she lacked the strength or will. Yet I didn’t understand why she accepted it. For some reason, the longer it went on, the more it bothered me.

I slipped out of my cubby and down the ladder, the noise of it covered by my father’s huffing as he strained to be a bully. As I stood behind my father—who always made me address him as sir—my mum opened her eyes for a brief second, and her gaze caught mine. The resignation there had me speaking out.

“Stop hitting her.”

My father didn’t hear me.

“I said stop it!” I yelled and clenched my fists as my father finally heard and turned to face me.

“What did you say to me?” His greasy hair hung in hanks, and he reeked, the result of not bathing and too much ale.

My chest puffed as I said, “Leave Mum alone.” I don’t know where the courage came from. I was a scrawny boy—a lack of steady food will do that. But I had a wiry strength built over years of working the docks, trying to bring home scraps to help Mum and me survive.

“She deserves it.”

“She’s done nothing wrong. You’re just a bully.” I couldn’t believe the words came out of my mouth, and judging by my father’s expression, neither could he.

“Disrespectful bastard. Seems your mother isn’t the only one who needs a lesson.”

I dodged the first fist that swung my way and even retaliated, my balled hand hitting my dad’s soft stomach to no effect. The next cuff caught me on the ear, and my head snapped. My vision blurred, and I couldn’t hear for the ringing in my head.

Nor could I recover. The blows came steadily, and I lifted my arms to try and defend, to no avail. He kept hitting me, and my rage built.

Rose at the unfairness of it.

Boiled that he had the strength and size to hurt me.

If only I had a way to fight back. A weapon. Anything.

My gaze fell on the table. The wooden plates would be useless. The fork, though… Despite being too far, I reached for it, and my fingers suddenly gripped its handle. I thrust, and my father yelped.

“You bastard!”

I blinked in surprise as I saw the fork sticking from his chest. Father grunted as he pulled it free and flung it to rattle at the far end of the room. I saw my death in his angry gaze.

And in that moment, I wished I had something deadlier than a fork. As my father lunged for me, the knife my mother used for butchering meat found its way into my grasp. A fist swung, and I ducked under it, the wind of its passing ruffling my hair. I swiped, more out of desperation than actual skill, yet the edge of the blade connected with flesh.

My father’s flesh.

Nothing happened for a moment, and then a line of red appeared. Blood poured from the wound I’d caused. He finally stopped trying to hit me and uttered a shocked cry as his hands went to his sliced middle, trying to hold in his guts.

But there was no recovery from this. He fell to the floor, dead.

Mum came to her senses enough to start wailing. “What have you done?”

I’d killed a man. When the King’s men came to investigate, I went with them, although I did protest when they dragged my mum along, too.

“She had nothing to do with it!” I exclaimed. No one listened to my claim that I was responsible. We spent the night in a cell together, yet I might as well have been alone. Mum cowered, keeping far from me. It might have hurt, only I’d long become used to it. I’d never had the kind of warm family I’d seen others enjoy. Only rare tender touches or words.

The next day, the guards returned, and while my mum sobbed and had to be dragged to her meeting with the King, I went of my own will to face the man who passed all judgment on the isle.

My beating the day before had swollen one of my eyes shut, and my body ached something fierce. Mum looked even worse. While I wanted to stare at the throne room of my King, I couldn’t take my gaze from the man sitting atop his dais.

The guards halted us a few paces in front of the King. Mum threw herself at his feet. Impressive feet, I should add. I’d thought my father a big man, but the King loomed larger. He had a clean-shaven face and hair bound in braids. He wore a loose, open-necked shirt, leather pants, and despite the fact that he sat on a throne—built, they said, from the first ship he’d ever commandeered—he had a sheath strapped to his hip, and I saw the pommel of his sword. A weapon that had slain hundreds. Before our King ruled the islands of Sitnalta, he’d commanded the seas. The mighty pirate, Nyxx.

My father hated him. No surprise. He’d served only one voyage under the King’s banner before getting tossed. My father claimed it was because the King didn’t like strong men. But I’d heard differently: Father had gotten caught drinking at sea. Guess which I believed.

I didn’t expect any mercy as we stood in front of the man who held our fate in his hands. After all, I’d killed someone. Mum, face down on the floor, sobbed and apologized. I refused to bend because I didn’t regret what I’d done. I just wished I’d done it sooner.

The King leaned forward and eyed me with a piercing gaze. “What is your name, boy?”

“Rolle.” A name I’d always hated because I shared it with my sire.

“My guards tell me your father was murdered.”

I lifted my chin. “I did it.” I wouldn’t lie.

“You?” The gaze flicked up and down my frame.

I understood his disbelief. “Yes, me. I took a knife and gutted him.” I omitted the part where it had seemingly flown into my hand.

A gasp erupted at my claim—not from the King, though. A face peered from around the throne—a girl, judging by her features and the braids wreathed with ribbons.

The King offered no reply to my confession but instead directed his attention to Mum. “You, woman. Stand up.”

My blubbering mother only pressed harder against the floor.

“I said rise.” The ring of command couldn’t be ignored.

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