QSFer Elliot Cooper has a new MM Fantasy book out:
Prince Gavin is powerless to refuse when his father demands he secure an alliance with a distant kingdom. At first, he sees the journey as a chance to prove his worth and indulge in the grand adventures of his dreams. Yet nothing seems right about his father’s paranoid insistence he travel by merchant ship while disguised as a diplomat. Once out on the open sea, Gavin learns he’s been tricked into boarding an infamous pirate ship: the Ebon Drake.
Captain Marcas Drake is delighted to discover the courtier he’s kidnapped is really a prince. Acquiring such a hefty ransom will prove once and for all he’s a brilliant pirate in his own right, not riding the coattails of his father’s fame. And using his charms to seduce his prisoner makes for an entertaining pastime. But unfortunate events turn the Ebon Drake’s crew against their captain before the ransom can be carried out.
Marooned, Marcas and Gavin’s new equal footing turns the pirate’s sensual game into something else entirely. However, being stranded on a tiny island becomes the least of their worries when rescue arrives in the form of the bloodthirsty Crimson Queen, a pirate who’s been chasing Marcas for years. Working together to escape the queen is their only hope of freedom and a chance their growing love might outlast their misadventures.
“I’m sending you to Highbron—alone,” King Malcolm said. His stony expression revealed more than his tone; he would not back down.
Prince Gavin’s chest tightened, understanding he needed no further proof of his father’s loosening grip on reality. Send his sole male heir across the sea to a foreign land alone? No sane king would order such a thing.
His father had been losing touch with the world at large over the past five years. It had been disheartening to watch the once warm, tactically minded man become paranoid about traitors, spies, and the threat of pirates to their island townships sprinkled throughout the expanse of Siren’s Deep. But the ridicule he levelled at his son for the imagined slight of not being Malcolm’s exact copy ripped Gavin’s emotions to tatters. Gavin clung to a sliver of affection for his father, yet it was difficult to tell if the man could remember he once shared that tender emotion.
“You won’t send any guards with me? They’re not mere travelling companions, Father,” Gavin said. Once the words were out of his mouth, he regretted their lecturing slant.
“I know what they are, boy.” The king’s nostrils flared in annoyance as his voice rose. “You will be travelling alone. In disguise. Make your preparations for your personal belongings. You leave at midnight.”
Gavin’s brows furrowed. Why so much caution, only to throw him to the wolves once he was away from the safety of Castle Crakesyde? And why the sudden rush? His father had first mentioned his plan in a vague sense a week before, declaring it again at dinner that evening. Surely a week wasn’t enough time to make all the necessary arrangements.
“Am I to travel on a navy ship?” It wasn’t as though Gavin hated travel or the idea of getting out and seeing the world. In fact, he was rather enamoured of the concept. A trip on one of Crakesyde’s navy vessels would ensure his personal safety and allow him to experience the world in a way he hadn’t been afforded in his eighteen years. But all hopes were dashed when his father frowned. He knew that look: intense disgust wrapped in consternation.
“You’d have an entire entourage of navy vessels parade you across Siren’s Deep, wouldn’t you, boy? And what purpose would that serve?” The king stared hard at Gavin for a moment and barrelled on as soon as he opened his mouth to reply. “It would draw undue attention! You’d be a beacon for cutthroats! All that roiling of the sea would draw the creatures from the depths! Leviathans! Sea dragons! Sharks! Besides, the Royal Navy isn’t a chauffeur or well-dressed nanny; those men do real work!”
“I didn’t mean more than one ship, Father,” Gavin protested. His pale face flushed red in embarrassment. The king might not think anything of calling his son a fool within earshot of the guards outside his chamber door, but Gavin knew the power of perception. He would never be able to gain the respect of the castle’s staff if they all thought him incompetent and thoughtless based on the king’s frequent vocal assumptions. “I understand the importance of the Royal Navy keeping the plague of pirates in check.”
“Then you should also understand that just last week two of our navy vessels were destroyed by this ‘plague.’ All because my so-called advisors on the King’s Council felt I should send patrols away from our coastal border. The fools!” King Malcolm’s fist slammed down on the ornate table beside his chair. He didn’t look moved by the shock on Gavin’s face. “Two separate incidences, both within our nearest colonies. The Crimson Queen, that wretched wench! She went on to sack the township of New Auchen! The gall!”
“A-and the other incident?”
“Who do you think? That blasted Captain Drake! At least he left the nearest township alone. But that’s saying nothing for the fine sailors we lost.” With that thought weighing heavily in the king’s private sitting room, Malcolm closed his eyes for a moment and rubbed his temples. When he looked at his son again, he pointed a thin finger. “You will be my diplomat only, do you understand? You will travel as other courtiers do, by merchant ship. I have secured passage for you on the Maiden Fair, which is due in port in a fortnight. You will travel by coach to Crowsmouth. This is an order from your father and king, and I will not hear any further protests! These precautions are all for your own safety and the continued safety of our sailors. I wish you to succeed in your mission as we’ve discussed and return with good news.”
“Should I speak with anyone on the Council regarding arrangements?” Gavin set his teeth to keep from saying anything more to inflame his father’s ire.
“You should speak with no one about the nature of your journey. The less outsider involvement, the better. I’ve made the arrangements for your travel myself—an added precaution against my detractors.” Malcolm’s anger cooled as he settled back down into his favourite chair beside the large empty hearth.
Gavin nodded his understanding of his father’s instructions. What the king wanted, he was entitled to. If he wanted to send his son on a suicide mission, so be it.
“I will make haste, My King,” Gavin said, returning to old formalities. He bowed, turned, and strode out of the king’s chambers with what little dignity he had left.
Elliot Cooper is a creativity addict who prefers writing stories that embody adventure, a hint of the taboo, and shadows that are deeper than they appear at first glance. All the better if romantic or erotic elements are key. Elliot also enjoys video games and knitting, and lives in the southern US with his human and feline family.