This week we’ll be running a daily excerpt from the five books of our Gay Romance Bundle. Up first is Chapter Six of H. B. Kurtzwilde‘s Chocolatiers of the High Winds, wherein we get a look at the lead characters, Mayport and Thiervy, their airship, Bessie, and the tension between desire and secrecy that tears at them.
Chapter Six: Deconstruction
Thiervy made every use of Cully’s expertise to hurry work along on the Process. The work hours were exhausting, and they had little to offer in the way of comforts. After such a show of professionalism, Mayport could do nothing but go ahead with his plans. Even with that, he had to navigate the misgivings coming at him from all sides.
“I don’t want to seem disrespectful,” Thiervy said in a nervous tone.
“Toward whom?” Mayport asked.
“Captain Cully,” Thiervy said.
“Oh, him.” Mayport frowned up at the shambles that the Process had become. “He’s not the captain of anything just now. What’s on your mind?”
“Is he sound to command?” Thiervy asked. The thread of real fear drew his voice high and tight. “The things he’s done to that ship is pure insanity. He acts proud of it. The artillery alone is a suicide waiting to happen.”
Mayport laughed, too loud and too hearty, at Thiervy’s sincere concern. “I thought you were a master shipwright. You spoke admiringly of my lady. You pilot that barge yourself. You said you designed and built it, as well.”
“I carry fuel, and cram my crew in like sardines. Even with that, she’s not light enough to take cargo. Your vessel, such as she is, comes near to being paper-thin. How could she ever survive what will be demanded of her if we get her off the ground? I don’t mean to insult your sweetheart, but neither do I intend to let her kill you. Where in the world did he get such crazy ideas?”
“My father,” Mayport said.
“Oh.” Thiervy looked even more uncomfortable, then lifted his chin and met Mayport’s eyes once more. “I mean what I say. Unless there’s some reason to fly without real weapons, this vessel of yours is a death trap.”
“Wouldn’t that explain why it’s grounded out here in the middle of nowhere, pulled apart and abandoned by all but her captain?” Mayport asked. “He said he was a coward and wouldn’t be privateer for either side of this most recent war. I don’t believe a word of that, but I think you’re on to something.”
“Maybe he just couldn’t stand to see her proven incapable of battle,” Thiervy said. “Let’s forget these old men. Come to Charlotte with me. I’ll build you something much nicer, and we can piss on our fathers from the beams.”
“No, that’s not possible,” Mayport said. “That vessel will sail back to New Amsterdam, crammed full of sugar. That’s what I mean to do, whether you see sense in it or not.”
“You really mean to chase after him,” Thiervy said. “You don’t doubt him, no matter what you know to the contrary.”
“Not for a moment.” Mayport folded his hands behind his back and gazed up at the Process once more. “You know I’m not rich. This vessel is all I have to call a home in this world. I need it to do what it did before, but better. All I ask is that you have faith in yourself. I know you can do what you have set out to achieve.”
“I didn’t know you were in that kind of trouble,” Thiervy said. He sighed, then drew on his stubborn, clever look. “From here to New Amsterdam, carrying cargo? Those are the terms you have to meet?”
“Yes,” Mayport said. “Costor smuggled me out of town when we found out what Cane had done to me with debt. I’m not supposed to go back until he sends for me. I find myself impatient, and Cully’s style suits me. He might be prone to take pointless risks in extreme situations.”
“I am too,” Thiervy said. “It’s better if we don’t try to hurry back. Slow and steady still fits your bill.”
“I’m really in no big hurry to get back,” Mayport said. “For all the obvious reasons.”
He was grateful that Thiervy left the deeper humiliations unspoken between them. It was bad enough to have a proud name and no fortune. Worse to be called a fraud and a thief, threatened with prison for a debt he was certain he didn’t owe and positive he could not pay. His only hope was to prove that the Dutch Process was a real ship, actually capable of doing her job, and not just a hustle concocted by a mad adventurer to scam investors and insurance salesmen.
Mayport had very little sympathy for the salesmen. He was even less enchanted with the business manager who had allowed things to get to this desperate stage. He quite relied on Thiervy’s steady, pragmatic nature to keep him from true peril at the mercy of his father’s mad invention.
In the end, it took days of work to re-assemble the inner workings of vents and pipes, whirligigs and makeshift arrays that constituted the engines and rigs. Thiervy had the satisfaction of proving the steam-driven guns did not work. Though it proved a theoretical point, it left him completely without defenses on a craft that would soon be carrying a fortune in exotic goods.
They solved the problem by sending Thiervy off in the barge with a load of trade goods. He came back with breech-loading cannons that had never been intended to fly. The weight of the weapons and their ordinance outweighed the steam-gun system Thiervy had rejected, but had the advantage of being able to strike a target with lethal force, as the previous guns had not.
At last they tethered the Process to Thiervy’s barge and set out to move her to the coast. Mayport leaned against his locker and watched the crew sliding the engine lenses into the sockets. The forward fans turned and complained as the lens array heated up air to fill the various bladders and balloons.
Mayport climbed the ladder up onto the loft deck. The stiff breeze caught him by surprise. He looked out over the railings and saw that they were already aloft. The wind picked up considerably, telling Mayport all he wanted to know about their speed.
He glanced up into the rigging, comforted by the shadows of men in long coats and strong boots. As the air grew cooler and the breeze whipped by, he was glad that so much of his skin was protected from the elements in his heavy sailing clothes.
Below, the lines strained and twisted as the barge and the Process struggled to match speed. The split crew worked seamlessly, making excellent time across country. He was certain the noise and startling vision of their passage would not be appreciated by the locals, but could spare little regret for their plight.
“We’re sailing due east,” Cully said. “See if you can spot the city from here.”
Mayport squinted over fields and expanse of fallow land. “No, I can’t. Maybe I should have paid more attention on my way here. I might recognize something.”
“Not likely, from a steam coach,” Cully said. “You would have circled around miles to avoid the river bogs. No, it’s best that you see this now. A city, even a nation, is absolutely nothing up here. You can’t see it, even if you’re looking.”
“No wonder it took days to come so far,” Mayport said. “I was so focused on what comes next, I didn’t think about going back. Much less what things would look like from up here.”
“This is only sailing,” Cully said. “We’re not even above the clouds. You weren’t afraid of this until you realized perhaps you ought to be.”
“It was different on the barge,” Mayport said. “Joseph never acted scared of his own vessel.”
Mayport stayed well back from the railings and looked up into the rig. His heart stuttered in his chest as he caught sight of blue sky above. The balloon and sails were thin as yellow shadows. Through that pale scrim, he could clearly see clouds and birds above them.
His belly wobbled and he swallowed hard. Nobody paid him any mind as he edged closer to the railing. Though the sight of ground and the swift breeze unnerved him, it was better than seeing what he was dangling below.
“Just breathe easy,” Cully murmured. “It’s the motion that makes your belly twitch. It will stop as soon as you get used to it.”
“What if I don’t get used to it?” Mayport asked.
“You won’t want to go home by any way other than steam coach,” Cully said. “That boat is too expensive to just be a toy. If you can’t play with it, I doubt you’ll want to have it.”
“I understand,” Mayport said. He swallowed again, and made himself smile. That fixed expression made his breathing come easier and he began to relax. “I may need longer than a few hours to be sure about all this.”
“Try not to throw up between here and the coast,” Cully said. “Everyone does sooner or later. Try for later.”
“I simply didn’t realize how thin the sails were,” Mayport said. “I’ve seen it, but I didn’t understand.”
Cully glanced up, then smiled. “The bladders are nothing to worry on. You’re in a jigsaw boat miles above dry land. If you got in trouble up here, there’s no chance of help. You have to trust your ship and crew. There’s nobody else.”
“You’re right to be so careful of me,” Mayport said. “I might not like freedom. I might be weak and useless, stupid and incapable. I might need to be kept in like a maiden, the way our Chairman Cane wanted. If that’s the case, I’m going to need more proof than a wobbly belly.”
“What do you really think about yourself?” Cully asked. “You act bold as the cock of the walk.”
“Never try, never know. I haven’t been allowed to try much, so far,” Mayport said. He turned and gingerly rested his weight against the railing. The beam seemed to give slightly under his weight, but he might have imagined that. He wrapped his hands around the rail and held a little tighter. “If I’m not more hindrance than a passenger, I suppose I’ll have to be satisfied.”
Mayport looked up as shadows passed over them. Some of the crew were in the rigging, doing he knew not what. Thiervy ambled over and pulled a lifeline loose, then secured it about Mayport’s hips.
“It’s a lovely day. We’re taking her up to speed,” Thiervy said. “Now that my passenger is secure, anyway. I thought I would have to set the lens myself, but they finally caught the angle. Might as well run the engines while we can.”
“I should go and see,” Mayport said as he reached to unfasten his safety line. “I didn’t think you would run them on so short a trip.”
Thiervy caught his wrist and re-attached the line. “You’re not going to fool around with those engines. For one, you’re not kitted to be in those engine rooms. For two, you should see what this boat can do before you get fancy about how she does it.”
“But I want…” Mayport began.
“It doesn’t matter what you want,” Cully said. “Thiervy is the captain of this vessel, such as she is. You obey, you respect, and not any other thing. Is that understood?”
Mayport looked up into two pairs of eyes that would accept nothing but complete compliance. He swallowed his protests and hoped his inward defiance didn’t show much. “Yes, I understand.”
“I suppose they did teach him something at that school,” Thiervy said to Cully. “He knows when to shut up, at least.”
“It’s a start,” Cully agreed. “Let’s see how far it goes when he is the master of the vessel.”
“I hope that will be a long time off,” Mayport said. “I know I’m ignorant of… everything… to do with this plan of mine. I can only hope my friends will haul me back from the brink of disaster, if that’s where I take myself.”
“I’m afraid we’re well beyond that point,” Thiervy said. “Perhaps you’d better have a try at being the spoiled businessman you don’t want to be. Nothing else is going to get you out of this mess your daddy left behind. Come on if this isn’t excitement enough for you. I’ll show you where it’s safe to go.”
Mayport followed after Thiervy until they were deep in the empty cargo gondola. It was the largest and lowest-slung of them all. It was also useless weight, until Mayport did his job better. There they were completely alone, if in the dust and dark as well. Thiervy hauled him in close for a bruising kiss. Their hands were savage on each other, stripping away only what was necessary to grasp at flesh misted in sweat.
“I should have dragged you in here last night,” Thiervy grunted as he went to his knees and began licking at Mayport’s cock. “I thought it would be another day or two before we were ready.”
“We’ll make up for lost time,” Mayport said. He pulled Thiervy up to standing once more, turned him and braced him against the wall. Thiervy moaned under the rough handling and spread his legs a little wider. “So hungry for me. I don’t know why you starve yourself so. It’s not as if I deny you.”
Thiervy only lifted his hips higher, and looked back over his shoulder. The heat in his eyes was all impatient demand. Mayport smiled and pressed closer, ever eager to indulge Thiervy’s sudden whims. He stroked his cock slowly against Thiervy’s ass, chuckling as his cheeks flexed and relaxed. He leaned down to bite and suck at the back of Thiervy’s neck. The scent and taste of his flesh overwhelmed good sense. He thrust hard, bearing down on Thiervy until he yelped and squirmed against the bulkhead.
Mayport groaned, every muscle in his belly and thighs burning with effort as he held Thiervy in place. He sucked hard at the side of his neck, biting and pulling until he was sure he tasted blood. Thiervy went soft and easy in his arms, moaned plaintively and yielded as Mayport gasped through a few short, sharp strokes.
Mayport tried to catch his breath, but Thiervy chuckled, making his cock throb and pulse. “We could hang for this. Did you know? It’s naval law. Cully could say swing us, and nobody would mind.”
A delicious shiver twisted Mayport’s spine, and he began again to thrust once more. He pinched and slapped at Thiervy’s thighs and ass, forcing him to buck and squirm. Thiervy slid down against the wall, so Mayport braced him up with an arm around his chest. He felt Thiervy’s skin turn to gooseflesh, and thrust harder as his lover cried out in triumph.
The dark cargo swayed, making their union a rough and uncontrolled thing. Thiervy struggled for balance but only managed to drive himself harder over Mayport’s cock. They wavered between falling and standing, but neither cared. Danger and pleasure fused to make Mayport’s body sing with pure need and claiming.
Thiervy squeaked and shivered as Mayport pumped hard for a few moments more, then fell gasping against his back as pleasure burned out too fast and sharp to truly satisfy him. They ended up in a sweaty pile, hurrying back into their clothes with long-practiced hands. Mayport laughed, thinking that they really had not grown up at all.
“Seriously, we can’t again until Gibraltar,” Thiervy said. “I didn’t believe it until I saw a man die that way. No more of this until we’re very sure of Cully.”
“This was your idea,” Mayport said. “It always is, and then you treat me like I’m the one who can’t be controlled.”
Thiervy laughed, then kissed him one last time. Mayport tried to hold on to the taste, hoping it would somehow linger and keep him warm.
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