Ransom

Ransom

Lee Rowan

The Royal Navy Series

Price: $6.99

 
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 An officer, a gentleman... and a sodomite. The first two earn honor and respect. The third, a noose.

Even as he finds himself falling in love with his shipmate, William Marshall, David Archer realizes it is a hopeless passion. Not only is Will the son of a minister, his first act aboard ship was to take pistol in hand and dispatch an older midshipman who made offensive advances. Davy realizes that Will would probably not shoot him if he expressed his feelings, but their affectionate friendship would surely end, once Marshall learned of Archer’s “unnatural” yearnings.

William Marshall has never given much thought to any feelings beyond duty, loyalty, and honor. For a young Englishman in 1796, the Navy is a way to move beyond his humble origins and seek a chance at greatness. While others spend shore leave carousing with willing wenches, Marshall is more likely to be curled up with a navigation text.

Captured by accident when their Captain is abducted, Archer and Marshall become pawns in a renegade pirate’s sadistic game. To protect the man he loves, David Archer compromises himself—trading his honor and his body for Marshall’s safety. When Will learns of his friend’s sacrifice, he also discovers that what he feels for Davy is stronger and deeper than friendship.

The first challenge: escape their prison. The second: find a way to preserve their love without losing their lives.

Ransom, the first book in the Royal Navy Series by Lee Rowan, introduces readers to the appealing characters of Lieutenants Marshall and Archer. Become part of the story as they discover their shared love against a backdrop of intrigue, mystery, and danger.

 
PUBLISHED BY: Bristlecone Pine Press
ISBN: 978-1-60722-006-0
PUBLICATION DATE: 2009
WORD COUNT: 93511
SEXUAL CONTENT RATING: 4 4 4 4
EBOOK READER RATING:
CATEGORIES: Historical, ManLove, Romantic Fiction, Action/Adventure
KEYWORDS: historical fiction, Age of Sail, gay, romance, England
 

EBOOKS BY Bristlecone Pine Press

EBOOKS BY Lee Rowan

 
EXCERPT
COPYRIGHT Lee Rowan/2009

 Plymouth, England, June 1796

It could have been a play, Archer thought as he stood in respectful silence, his midshipman’s hat tucked under his arm. The scene before him was like some outdoor theatrical, David and Goliath re-enacted in modern dress. Two men also in midshipmen’s uniforms, the elder burly and red-faced, the younger slim and deathly pale, stood back-to-back in a sunny glade not far from Plymouth harbor. Each held a pistol in his right hand.

The warm breeze and sylvan loveliness of the place were lost on the principals and on two of the three onlookers. Three only, not the four participants demanded by the code of duelling—but the proprieties were fulfilled nonetheless. Archer himself and Mr. Parrish, the purser of HMS Titan, stood as seconds. Their ship’s surgeon, Dr. Dean, had agreed to also act as referee. Not only were the rules thus properly observed, knowledge of the affair could be kept within the confines of the ship.

The doctor raised his voice. “Mr. Correy, Mr. Marshall… Gentlemen, you are certain you cannot be reconciled?”

“Oh, I could be, easily,” said the larger man. “Mr. Marshall knows well that I would be happy to make our acquaintance a closer one.”

“No,” said Marshall. He bit his lip, pushed a stray lock of black hair behind his ear. “Impossible.”

“Very well,” said Dean. “Gentlemen, take ten paces.”

They did.

“On the count of three, turn and fire. One. Two. Three.”

Both turned quickly; the shots sounded as one. After a moment, Correy toppled slowly to one side. By the time the surgeon reached him, he had breathed his last.

“Best clear out before someone comes,” said Parrish, Correy’s second. His attitude seemed cold-blooded, but Archer knew that Correy had asked the purser to be his second only because Parrish had a cousin who owned a livery stable, and could rent them the necessary carriages cheaply. Why the man had agreed was anyone’s guess—to help his cousin, perhaps. And Mr. Parrish was right in urging haste. Duelling might be common enough but it was still illegal and Captain Cooper disapproved of it.

Archer clapped his bicorne upon his blond head and helped the others carry the dead man to the carriage in which he had arrived. Dean got in with the body; Parrish climbed up and took the reins.

“What—what happens now?” Marshall asked. For all his earlier resolve, he seemed at a loss now, clearly anxious about the possible consequences of his victory.

The surgeon shook his head. “Lad,” he said, rather kindly, “You’ve not been aboard Titan long, have you?”

“Only since last week.”

“Then my guess is that Captain Cooper will not be sorry to report Mr. Correy’s death in a duel with an unknown landsman. And if Correy’s family is wise, they’ll let it go at that. Every man aboard knew his habits, but he was too clever to leave evidence.”

“You’ve done the ship a service,” Parrish said. “Begone, now. And clean your pistol.” He snapped the reins and clucked to the horse. In a moment the carriage disappeared from view.

“Come, Mr. Marshall,” Archer said. “Quickly, before someone comes to see about the gunfire.”

“Mr. Archer, is he serious?”

“Yes, completely. Come, sir, he was right, we must be off.” They climbed into the light trap they’d hired in town, and Archer skillfully guided the horse back onto the roadway.

Marshall was silent for a long time. “I...have never killed in cold blood before,” he said at last. “Nor ever killed an Englishman.” He turned and met Archer’s eyes, looking for an instant like the eighteen-year-old boy he was rather than the correct officer and gentleman he had been while facing death. “Tell me, Mr. Archer...what else could I have done?”

“Nothing,” Archer said. “In fact, what you did do—that was more than anyone could have hoped for.” He had liked Marshall from the moment the quiet, serious midshipman came aboard the Titan, even though Marshall’s time in the service gave him seniority over Archer himself. That immediate affinity was part of the reason he had agreed to act as Marshall’s second in this affair; his new shipmate was all alone, but that hadn’t stopped him from standing up to a bully. “The man was a menace, sir. He made life hell for any boy above the age of consent. Younger than fourteen, a boy could charge rape, so he let the children alone. Older, the victim dared not speak—he could be hanged himself, for participating.”

“In the first place,” Marshall still seemed to be trying to convince someone, most likely himself, that he’d been in the right. “In the first place, the Articles of War specifically forbid sodomy between men, on penalty of death.”

“Indeed.”

“I’ve never—I have served three years in His Majesty’s Navy, Mr. Archer. On a sloop, to be sure, and under a strict captain. I know all men have human weaknesses, but I have never seen such a blatant disregard for common decency!”

“I believe Captain Cooper has been in an awkward position,” Archer said. “He knew Correy was untrustworthy, but the man was clever and deceitful. He bribed the men under his command to act as his spies and lookouts, and Correy’s family has influence enough to lose Cooper his command if he had acted without ironclad evidence. The Captain did the best he could to keep Correy from power—he never made him acting lieutenant, nor recommended him for the lieutenant’s examination.”

“His family must have been influential indeed, for him to flout the Articles,” Marshall replied. “How could he make such a proposition, bald-faced, and even threaten me? To claim he’d had a boy flogged for refusing him—!”

“He did, more or less,” Archer said. “Correy made his wishes known and the boy refused, so Correy brought him before Captain Cooper and charged that the youngster had made the proposition himself. The boy was so flustered he must have appeared guilty of something. The Captain had him caned, not flogged, for ‘unclean behavior’.”

“What?”

“He had to do something; Correy swore on the Bible and all the boy could do was deny he’d done anything. At least there’s no death penalty for it. And refusing didn’t even help the lad. Correy had his way with him eventually, poor little bastard.”

“My God.” Marshall let out a long breath. “Thank you for telling me that, Mr. Archer,” he said. “I will not speak of this to anyone, but you have eased my conscience.”

Archer smiled. “You have made the Titan a safer place for our youngsters, sir. It is I who should thank you.”

They drove on again in silence. Marshall seemed at ease, but Archer’s spirit was now in turmoil. His gratitude was far deeper than that of a concerned officer; Marshall had freed him from a demon who had made his existence a living hell.

He had not told Marshall that the boy he spoke of had been himself.

And he had not, and never could, tell Marshall that he just had fallen in love with a brave and beautiful gentleman who would likely shoot him dead if he ever gave voice to his feelings.

 
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