The following is an excerpt of Saved by the Selkie, a fantasy m/m romance, available November 28, 2023.
I can’t believe this. Rage thunders through my ears, hot on the heels of humiliation, as I watch the hulking galleon gliding away into the gathering gloom.
Reality begins to sink in.
They’re leaving. They’re leaving me behind.
Me! I’m supposed to be the captain! I’m the guy with the map, the plan, the moxie. The money. The blasted ship!
I had it all, and I’m watching it all disappear into the heavy ocean fog as I sit, helpless, bound hand and foot, in the tiny lifeboat.
Last time I work with bloody privateers, I think bitterly, even though I know I can be counted among their ranks. At least last time I led a mutiny, I’d waited until the captain got us good and lost and it was pretty clear we weren’t going to make it to our destination.
I know long, uncertain voyages to magical islands nobody has seen in centuries—that may not actually exist—are pretty hard sells. But the crew of the Rigger could have done me the dignity of waiting until we had to weigh anchor somewhere to take on more supplies.
As it stands, they’re sailing away with barrels of lemons, limes, and oranges; salt pork and beef; and a larder full of hardtack and cheese. Plus the fishing gear, which means they can probably supplement their diet with cod or even halibut. Chrissakes, they can probably load up on the daily catch and sail into the nearest port—with my ship—and turn coin.
Meanwhile, they’ve left me out here with naught to eat except my own shoe leather—if I’m flexible enough to reach it—and nothing to drink, the bloody bastards.
As if that weren’t enough, the sky has turned dark hours ahead of sunset, and the fog is getting denser by the minute. I lost track of the Rigger I don’t know how long ago. The water has turned dark as well, swirling menacingly. Little waves lap at the sides of the lifeboat, reminding me of how shallow it is, how quickly I’ll sink on the open ocean.
The wind strengthens, and the waves leap higher, licking at the sides of my tiny vessel like they’re eager to capsize me and send me to whatever lurks in the depths.
The rain comes a moment later, a soft pitter-patter followed by a curtain plummeting from the heavens. The wind howls, and the waves rock the rowboat. As the bow rises and falls with each crest, I realize more precisely how screwed I am.
I slide my bound hands against the handle of one of the oars, hoping to wedge it between my hands and the slack in the rope. Maybe my compatriots are as bad at tying knots as they are at being patient. It will take too long to saw through the rope this way, but if I can loosen the knot enough, I might be able to slip free. There’s a knife in my boot; if I can get to that, I can cut the ropes around my ankles, and maybe I can at least pretend I’ll escape the storm.
Not that there’s anywhere to escape to. We were sailing due north, past the end of all land, to the island known only as Mythos. The name says it all. Only a handful of old stories say that human sailors have ever set foot there, and most people regard those tales as the stuff of legend. The crew said I was daft for even thinking it was possible to get there, for entertaining the idea the island really existed.
I mean, it sounds pretty silly now that I have the time to reflect on it: a magical island, shrouded in clouds, that’s thousands of miles north of the last known land, and no one has ever found it in the same place twice? A mystical wandering island that’s virtually impossible to chart a course to, that isn’t on a map and, even if we did get there, can’t ever be put on one because it has a habit of wandering around the Arctic Ocean, I guess.
Yeah, that does sound like a load of bull.
A particularly tall wave lifts my craft nearly vertical; it passes, and I stare at the water below as the bow crashes back down. Then I’m picked up by the next monster wave. I close my eyes and struggle frantically against the rope, hoping against hope. If I can just … wriggle that to the left a little …
The bow crashes down so hard, I tumble forward; I jerk to a stop only because my hands are tethered to the oar, and my arms feel like they’ve been wrenched out of their sockets. I dangle there helplessly as water splashes over the prow, and then up, up, up we go. The oar wiggles in its cradle.
We crash down again, and this time, the oar comes loose, popping out of the holder and landing in the water with a wet smack. I crash into the side of the boat, my hands dragging me after the oar. Hastily, I yank myself free of the oar, and it floats away, spinning in the eddying current.
A shadow falls over me, and against my better judgment, I glance up at the monster wave rising above me. I stare at it for a split second, the knowledge this is likely the end rising up with it.
The realization hangs before cognition resumes, crashing over me like the wall of water. Wood splinters under the ocean’s fury. I look around for a bucket; there is none. I’m drenched with seawater the next second, as the prow lifts and the dinghy and I head up another swell.
The hull’s integrity is already compromised; when we smash down again, it crumples more, and the ocean comes rushing in through the breach.
Sinking. The boat’s sinking now. Another two, three waves pass, and the water rises higher over the boat. Or maybe the boat sinks lower every time we crash down. I don’t really know now—up is down and down is up at this point.
The boat’s pretty much underwater now, and I’m still standing there, going down with it, except that I’m not standing. Floating—but I won’t be for much longer, not if I don’t swim.
But I can’t really swim, not tied hand and foot like this, and as I gasp another breath, half of it seawater, I know this undignified flopping is only going to last for another minute or two. My limbs are tired already; the ocean fills my mouth, and I can’t breathe.
I’m going to drown. I’m going to die.
Panic. That’s the absolute worst thing you can do in this kind of situation, but it’s instinctual. I’m going to die, and my body thrashes without my permission, like I can hold out against death and all the ocean’s fury.
The world dims around the edges; color bursts across my vision like fireworks. I’m breathing water now, and the next time I’m dunked under, I’m certain it’s the last time I’ll ever see the surface.