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by Syd McGinley
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: Jack saves Nehemiah from drowning, or worse, on the Cornish coast, surprised to find he has an American in his midst. He's also afraid that his fellow villagers will kill Nehemiah rather than look at him, all for the peridot ring on his finger. He takes Nehemiah in, sharing his home, and eventually his secrets. Pressed into the navy, Nehemiah is lost at sea, and lost for words when Jack pretends to rob him when he washes up on shore. Close quarters makes for close companions, though, and his growing feelings for Jack make it hard for Nehemiah to return home when he has the chance. Can they find a way to stay afloat?
eBook Publisher: Torquere Press/Birthstones, 2008 http://www.torquerepress.com
eBookwise Release Date: November 2008
9 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [65 KB]
Reading time: 37-52 min.
Miners shot from the tunnel and ran pell-mell for the cliff path, still clutching their tools.
Jack Tregarthen dawdled after them. There was no point working with them all gone. Even if he made his tribute, there was no one to move the ore. But he was reluctant to join the rush to the shore.
Pasco, the overseer, bellowed at him.
"Tregarthen, you tell'em, the buggers will be out of a job if they're not back tomorrow. I don't care how hung-over they are."
Jack shrugged. He and Pasco had both bowed to the inevitable: when a foundering ship was spotted, there was no keeping a Cornish tinner in a mine. Jack picked up a good hatchet and followed the wild cries of "Wreck!" No doubt Pasco would be down on the beach himself soon.
The tinners had been on edge ever since they'd heard the rumor that a ship in distress had been sighted off the Lizard. Lookouts had been pacing the ship along the coast path all day, and now it was heading for Porthleven. Daylight held for it, and the mood had soured among the tinners as it looked as if it would reach safe harbor.
"It shan't pass us by!" swore Polwhele, and his plea must have outweighed the prayers of the sailors because the Atlantic chop increased, and the current bore the ship toward the deceptive stretch of Looe Bar. Her captain wouldn't be the first to think he could beach into the shingle. As soon as that news reached the mine, the men had abandoned the workings.
The sandy beach and freshwater lake behind it looked tranquil, but only this past December the HMS Anson had hit the underwater cliff that ran before Looe Bar. The Anson had been out of reach of those on the shore regardless of whether they were there to help or loot.
Polwhele's foul prayers had changed to "Let her founder close!" as they pounded to the cliff and then down to beach.
Jack's steady pace had got him there not far behind the mob of panting tinners. Womenfolk were arriving from the village around the cove. Jack knew they were there for the same reason as the men, and he shuddered.
He wasn't faint of heart--he had seen men die both slow and fast before--but he had a horror of seeing men drown. Like most Cornish, he held strong superstitions about the sea, and had been glad to have found a place as a tributer for tin instead of being a fisher. Now, standing on the sunlit shore under a deceptive blue sky streaked with pink and gold, he enjoyed both the unfamiliar sun and fresh air. Usually he trudged to and from home in the pre-dawn and post-dusk gloom year round. He coughed hard. He may not have winded himself in the walk to the shore, but his lungs always ached from the underground ore dust. He wouldn't drown if he could help it, but few miners saw forty.
Cornwall's coast was a treacherous beauty. The ship was being torn apart by the current against the submerged cliff as they watched. As the sun set, Jack listened to the distant cries for help blending with the seagulls shrieks. The crowd on the beach was silent as they waited for goods and men to wash ashore. If the ship came close enough as the tide went out, they'd swarm the wreck and strip it of everything it held before dawn. And if it broke apart out of reach, they'd scavenge the shoreline and shallows. Jack hefted his hatchet. He'd take apart wood but not a man, he promised himself. No matter how the villagers might riot, he'd not have blood on his hands. He dare not stay away; his position in the village was precarious enough.
Back in the winter, there had been enough outsiders and militia around that the Anson had survivors. Some observer of that wreck was said to be designing a ship-to-shore rescue device after seeing so many drown. Well enough, thought Jack abstractedly, well enough. But it's not here now.
An inhuman cry came from all but Jack. The ship had rolled on one side and not righted itself. Timber and cargo heaved around in the surf.
"Dear God, forgive us," muttered Jack as the sea of men met the sea itself and battled for victims and bounty.
A curious law prevailed among the mob. Any one touching and claiming an item could be sure their rights were honored. They could drag it above high water mark and return for more. So far, Jack noticed, only things had made it ashore. The crew and passengers were either trapped or were not even making it close to shore.
He turned to puke. He'd seen Clem Bolitho drown before his eyes and though more than a year had passed, he was still turned into a mewling boy at the memory.
Jack wiped his mouth and waited to see if his guts would convulse again. He could hear Polwhele whooping as he hauled a cask from the surf. Shit, but he hated Polwhele. A smug brute who'd made Clem's life misery and was trying to do the same to Jack.
The crowd was wheeling around a rush of tangled rope, barrels, and crates for all the world like seagulls mobbing a landed fish, and Jack turned away along the beach. Perhaps if he just took enough to show he'd been here and to avoid Polwhele's bullying, he could go. He prowled the surf line away from the mob.
Dear God! He looked over his shoulder quickly. The villagers had already cracked a cask of brandy and were hollering and capering. He'd better act fast. He hefted the hatchet in his hand, and despite the pale look of horror on the man in the waves, brought it down hard.
He fell to his knees beside the trembling torso. "Stay down, for the love of God. I've bought you time. Play dead."