Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Gus is gone

Thanks, guys, for all your prayers and good wishes. I'm more sorry than I can tell you to have to say that Gus is dead. His kidneys shut down entirely, and there was no choice but to euthanize him. Doug and our younger daughter (who lives in town) came down to the hospital, and we spent a good (if tearful) hour with him, petting him and telling him how much he meant to us--what a good dog. Then the kind doctor gave him a shot, and we brought him home and buried him out back, under a big eucalyptus tree, beside old Ajax, our doberman who died a couple of years ago. We buried him with a MilkBone between his paws (his favorite), and a small bouquet of fragrant herbs from my garden--rosemary (for remembrance), lavender, and sage. He always loved to help dig in the garden.

We're very sad, but relieved that he's out of his trouble. It's been a bad few days.

Sick Doggie

Sorry to be so absent for the last bit; out of town for several days, during which our Fat Dachshund, Gus (whom some of you have met in the pages of BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE [g]) developed pancreatitis and kidney failure of unknown cause. Our son was watching house and livestock for us, and called to tell me Gus was having bloody diarrhea (sorry for the details), so I asked Sam to take him to the emergency veterinary clinic (this being the weekend). We thought we might lose him at least twice over the last two or three days, and he's frankly not doing well--but he's still got a chance, and we want him to have it, as long as he's in good hands and not suffering. So he's on "supportive care" at a very good animal hospital, and...we'll hope he gets better. All good thoughts much appreciated.

I'm going down to the hospital to visit him now (they let you visit 24 hours a day); will give him all your good wishes. Thanks.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pam's "Ode to a Penis"


(As in—I did NOT write this—proud though I would have been to do so [g]. No, no—this is the stellar handiwork of Ms. Pamela Patchet, multi-winner of the Surrey International Writers Conference Silly Poetry Contest, Honorable Mention (more than once) in the Bulwer-Lytton Bad Writing Contest, and holder of many other distinguished titles, I'm sure. Many thanks to Pam for giving me permission to post her poem here!)


How does a writer describe the aroused male member in a romance novel without tarnishing the family jewels?

Despite thousands of words used to describe Wee Willy Winkie (Mark Morton lists 1,300 in his book The Lover’s Tongue: A Merry Romp Through The Language Of Love And Sex), none seem to adequately convey the language of love, with its most obvious method of delivery, without giggles. One might argue the biggest organ of love is the brain, but a man’s brain is not the organ which makes its presence most boldly known in the throes of passion.

But how does a writer of romance describe ‘It’ without ruining the moment? There’s no denying ‘It’ is there - its presence is as keenly felt as the relentless prodding of a Labrador’s nose against an outstretched hand.

One might wish to use a soft touch and describe a poet’s Dart of Love. A knight shields his Lance of Love, his Excalibur seeks its sheath. A fighting man thrusts his Hooded Warrier, or if angered, his Bald Avenger. The CEO fires his Executive Staff Member, the chef heats up his Meat ‘n Potatoes, the outdoorsman handles his Rod and Tackle, and the butcher unwraps his 100% All Beef Thermometer.

No, I think for romance to work, allusion is everything. I humbly offer up the following poem:

Ode to a Penis


Advice For Romance Writers

I think that I shall never see,

a penis lovely as a tree.

Though both can be described at length,

it’s best you don’t.

Please show some strength.

For ample members are best left

(even when one’s hands are deft)

untouched by writers’ florid prose,

whether roused,

or in repose.

So drop the little one-eyed snake,

of other things you should partake.

Admittedly, they do enthrall,

but after one, you’ve seen ‘em all.

Graphic Novel Update!

Just to let y'all know that I've posted a sample page of the graphic novel script--so you can see what one looks like--and a page of Hoang's layout sketches. Layout sketches are rough drawings, made so that we can be sure Hoang and I have the same vision of what the page looks like; that he has the composition and perspective I was envisioning, and whether there are any small details that I forgot to include that should be present (or that he's added, but that oughtn't to be there for historical or plot reasons).

Yes, that _is_ Jamie in the third panel. And yes, he is young [g]--remember, he's only 22 here.

As always, I'm fascinated to hear what y'all think!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sex Scene Examples - for Part II

OK, here are the examples referred to in Part II; I haven't time right now to figure out how to do a link, so will just post them (and trust I'm not violating any rules of blogspot by doing so. If so, I imagine someone will be along to tell me).

If any of you reading this are under 18 (and haven't already read these in the original books--I think they're all from A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES--oh, no, the first one's from THE FIERY CROSS)--then you should probably stop reading this Right Now and go do something pure and innocent like playing violent video games in which you rip the heads off orcs, or getting a tattoo on your rumpus.
You Have Been Warned.

SEX SCENE EXAMPLES (to go with Part II)

Copyright 2006 Diana Gabaldon

NOTION OF ESCALATION (in a scene, or through a book). Use INCUBUS DREAMS for latter--pick excerpts from near the beginning, and part of that gross oral sex bit and the breast-biting one.

SHOCK (vs. ESCALATION) - use Bonnet scene



A sudden rustle of the hay, and Roger slid in behind her. He fumbled a bit, spreading his own cloak over her, then sighed with relief, his body relaxing heavily against hers as his arm came round her waist.

"Been a bloody long day, hasn't it?"

She groaned faintly in agreement. Now that everything was quiet, with no more need to talk, watch, pay attention, every fiber of her muscles seemed about to dissolve with fatigue. There was no more than a thin layer of hay between her and cold, hard ground, but she felt sleep lapping at her like the waves of the tide creeping up a sandy shore, soothing and inexorable.

"'D you get something to eat?" She put a hand on his leg, and his arm tightened in reflex, holding her close.

"Aye, if ye think beer's food. Many folk do." He laughed, a warm fog of hops on his breath. "I'm fine." The warmth of his body was beginning to seep through the layers of cloth between them, dispelling the night's chill.

Jem always gave off heat when he slept; it was like holding a clay firepot, with him curled against her. Roger was putting out even more heat, though. Well, her mother did say that an alcohol lamp burned hotter than oil.

She sighed and snuggled back against him, feeling warm, protected. The cold immensity of the night had lifted, now that she had her family close, together again, and safe.

Roger was humming. She realized it quite suddenly. There was no tune to it, but she felt the vibration of his chest against her back. She didn't want to chance stopping him; surely that was good for his vocal cords. He stopped on his own, though, after a moment. Hoping to start him again, she reached back to stroke his leg, essaying a small questioning hum of her own.


His hands cupped her behind and fastened tight.

"Mmm-hmmm," he said, in what sounded like a combination of invitation and satisfaction.

She didn't reply, but made a slight dissentient motion of the buttocks. Under normal conditions, this would have caused him to let go. He did let go, but only with one hand, and this in order to slide it down her leg, evidently meaning to get hold of her skirt and ruckle it up.

She reached back hastily and grabbed the roving hand, bringing it round and placing it on her breast, as an indication that while she appreciated the notion and under other circumstances, would be thrilled to oblige, just this moment, she thought--

Roger was usually very good at reading her body language, but evidently this skill had dissolved in whisky. That, or--the thought came suddenly to her--he simply didn't care whether she wanted--

"Roger!" she hissed.

He had started humming again, the sound now interspersed with the low, bumping noises a teakettle makes, just before the boil. He'd got his hand down her leg and up her skirt, hot on the flesh of her thigh, groping swiftly upward--and inward. Jemmy coughed, jerking in her arms, and she made an attempt to kick Roger in the shin, as a signal of discouragement.

"God, you're beautiful," he murmured into the curve of her neck. "Oh, God, so beautiful. So" The next words were a mumble against her skin, but she thought he'd said "slippery." His fingers had reached their goal, and she arched her back, trying to squirm away.

"Roger," she said, keeping her voice low. "Roger, there are people around!" And a snoring toddler wedged like a doorstop in front of her.

He mumbled something in which the words, "dark" and "nobody'll see" were distinguishable, and then the groping hand retreated--only to grab a handful of her skirts and start shoving them out of the way.

He had resumed the humming, pausing momentarily to murmur, "Love you, love you so much..."

"I love you, too," she said, reaching back and trying to catch his hand. "Roger, stop that."

He did, but immediately reached around her, and grasped her by the shoulder. A quick heave, and she was lying on her back staring up at the distant stars, which were at once blotted out by Roger's head and shoulders as he rolled on top of her in a tremendous rustling of hay and loosened clothing.

"Jem--" She flung out a hand toward Jemmy, who appeared not to have been disturbed by the sudden disappearance of his backstop, but was still curled up in the hay like a hibernating hedgehog.

Roger was, of all things, singing now, if one could call it that. Or chanting, at least, the words to a very bawdy Scottish song, about a miller who is pestered by a young woman wanting him to grind her corn. Whereupon he does.

"He flung her down upon the sacks, and there she got her corn ground, her corn ground..." Roger was chanting hotly in her ear, his full weight pinning her to the ground and the stars spinning madly far above.

She'd thought his description of Ronnie as "reeking wi' lust" merely a figure of speech, but evidently not. Bare flesh met bare flesh, and then some. She gasped. So did Roger.

"Oh, God," he said. He paused, frozen for an instant against the sky above her, then sighed in an ecstasy of whisky fumes and began to move with her, humming. It was dark, thank God, though not nearly dark enough. The remnants of the fire cast an eerie glow over his face, and he looked for an instant the bonny big, black devil Inge had called him.

Lie back and enjoy it, she thought. The hay made a tremendous rustling--but there were other rustlings nearby, and the sound of the wind soughing through the trees in the cove was nearly enough to drown them all in sibilance.

She had managed to suppress her embarrassment and was indeed beginning to enjoy it, when Roger got his hands under her, lifting.

"Wrap your legs round me," he whispered, and nipped her earlobe with his teeth. "Wrap them round my back and hammer my arse wi' your heels."

Moved partly by an answering wantonness, and partly by a desire to squeeze the breath out of him like an accordion, she flung her legs apart and swung them high, scissoring them tight across his heaving back. He gave an ecstatic groan and redoubled his efforts. Wantonness was winning; she had nearly forgotten where they were.

Hanging on for dear life and thrilled by the ride, she arched her back and jerked, shuddering against the heat of him, the night-wind's touch cool and electric on thighs and buttocks, bared to the dark. Trembling and moaning, she melted back against the hay, her legs still locked around his hips. Boneless and nerveless, she let her head roll to the side, and slowly, languidly, opened her eyes.

Someone was there; she saw movement in the dark, and froze. It was Fergus, come to fetch his son. She heard the murmur of his voice, speaking French to Germain, and the quiet rustle of his footsteps in the hay, moving off.

She lay still, heart pounding, legs still locked in place. Roger, meanwhile, had reached his own quietus. Head hanging so that his long hair brushed her face like cobwebs in the dark, he murmured, "Love you...God, I love you," and lowered himself, slowly and gently. Whereupon he breathed "Thank you," in her ear and lapsed into warm half-consciousness on top of her, breathing heavily.

"Oh," she said, looking up to the peaceful stars. "Don't mention it."


He'd brought a loaded pistol upstairs with him; that was placed on the wash-stand by the window. The rifle and fowling piece too had been left loaded and primed, hanging from their hooks above the hearth downstairs. And, with a small ironic flourish, he drew the dirk from its belt-sheath and slid it neatly under our pillow.

"Sometimes I forget," I said, a little wistfully, watching this. There had been a dirk under the pillow of our wedding-couch--and under many a one since then.

"Do ye?" He smiled at that; a little lopsidedly, but he smiled.

"Don't you? Ever?"

He shook his head, still smiling, though it had a rueful tinge.

"Sometimes I wish I did."

This colloquy was interrupted by a spluttering snort across the hall, followed at once by a thrashing of bedclothes, violent oaths, and a sharp _thump!_ as something--likely a shoe--struck the wall.

"Fncking cat!" bellowed Major MacDonald. I sat, hand pressed across my mouth, as the stomp of bare feet vibrated through the floorboards, succeeded briefly by the crash of the Major's door, which flung open, then shut with a bang.

Jamie too had stood frozen for an instant. Now he moved, very delicately, and soundlessly eased our own door open. Adso, tail arrogantly S-shaped, strolled in. Magnificently ignoring us, he crossed the room, leapt lightly onto the wash-stand and sat in the basin, where he stuck a back leg into the air and began calmly licking his testicles.

"I saw a man once in Paris who could do that," Jamie remarked, observing this performance with interest.

"Are there people willing to pay to watch such things?" I assumed that no one was likely to engage in a public exhibition of that sort merely for the fun of it. Not in Paris, anyway.

"Well, it wasna the man, so much. More his female companion, who was likewise flexible." He grinned at me, his eyes glinting blue in the candlelight. "Like watching worms mate, aye?"

"How fascinating," I murmured. I glanced at the wash-stand, where Adso was now doing something even more indelicate. "You're lucky the Major doesn't sleep armed, cat. He might have potted you like a jugged hare."

"Oh, I doubt that. Our Donald likely sleeps with a blade--but he kens well enough which side his bread's buttered. Ye wouldna be likely to give him breakfast, and he'd skewered your cat."

I glanced toward the door. The mattress-heaving and muttered curses across the hall had died down; the Major, with the practiced ease of a professional soldier, was already well on his way back to dreamland.

"I suppose not. You were right about his worming his way into a position with the new governor. Which is the real reason for his desire for your political advancement, I imagine?"

Jamie nodded, but had plainly lost interest in discussing MacDonald's machinations.

"I _was_ right, no? That means ye owe me a forfeit, Sassenach."

He eyed me with an air of dawning speculation, which I hoped had not been too much inspired by his memories of the wormlike Parisians.

"Oh?" I regarded him warily. "And, um, _what_ precisely...?"

"Well, I havena quite worked out all the details as yet, but I think ye should maybe lie on the bed, to begin with."

That sounded like a reasonable start to the matter. I piled up the pillows at the head of the bed--pausing to remove the dirk--then began to climb onto it. I paused again, though, and instead bent to wind the bed-key, tightening the ropes that supported the mattress until the bedstead groaned and the ropes gave a creaking twang.

"Verra canny, Sassenach," Jamie said behind me, sounding amused.

"Experience," I informed him, clambering over the newly tautened bed on hands and knees. "I've waked up often enough after a night with you, with the mattress folded up round my ears and my arse no more than an inch off the ground."

"Oh, I expect your arse will end up somewhat higher than that," he assured me.

"Oh, you're going to let me be on top?" I had mixed feelings about that. I was desperately tired, and while I enjoyed riding Jamie, all right, I'd been riding a beastly horse for more than ten hours, and the thigh muscles required for both activities were trembling spasmodically.

"Perhaps later," he said, eyes narrowed in thought. "Lie back, Sassenach, and ruckle up your shift. Then open your legs for me, there's a good, a bit wider, aye?" He began--with deliberate slowness-- to remove his shirt.

I sighed and shifted my buttocks a little, looking for a position that wouldn't give me cramp if I had to hold it for long.

"If you have in mind what I think you have in mind, you'll regret it. I haven't even bathed properly," I said reproachfully. "I'm desperately filthy and I smell like a horse."

Naked, he raised one arm and sniffed appraisingly.

"Oh? Well, so do I. That's no matter; I'm fond of horses." He'd abandoned any pretense of delay, but paused to survey his arrangements, looking me over with approval.

"Aye, verra good. Now then, if ye'll just put your hands above your head and seize the bedstead..."

"You wouldn't!" I said, and then lowered my voice, with an involuntary glance toward the door. "Not with MacDonald just across the hall!"

"Oh, I would," he assured me, "and the devil wi' MacDonald and a dozen more like him." He paused, though, studying me thoughtfully, and after a moment, sighed and shook his head.

"No," he said quietly. "Not tonight. Ye're still thinking of that poor Dutch bastard and his family, no?"

"Yes. Aren't you?"

He sat down beside me on the bed with a sigh.

"I've been trying verra hard not to," he said frankly. "But the new dead dinna lie easy in their graves, do they?"

I laid a hand on his arm, relieved that he felt the same. The night air seemed restless with the passage of spirits, and I had felt the dragging melancholy of that desolate garden, that row of graves, all through the events and alarums of the evening.

It _was_ a night to be securely locked inside, with a good fire on the hearth, and people nearby. The house stirred, shutters creaking in the wind.

"I do want ye, Claire," Jamie said softly. "I need...if ye will?"

And had they spent the night before their deaths like this, I wondered? Peaceful and snug betwixt their walls, husband and wife whispering together, lying close in their bed, having no notion what the future held. I saw in memory her long white thighs as the wind blew over her, and the glimpse I'd had of the small curly mat between them, the pudenda beneath its nimbus of brown hair pale as carved marble, the seam of it sealed like a virgin's statue.

"I need, too," I said, just as softly. "Come here."

He leaned close, and pulled the drawstring neatly from the neck of my shift, so the worn linen wilted off my shoulders. I made a grab for the fabric, but he caught my hand, and held it down by my side. One-fingered, he brushed the shift lower, then put out the candle, and in a dark that smelled of wax and honey and the sweat of horses, kissed my forehead, eyes, the corners of my cheeks, my lips and chin, and so continued, slow and soft-lipped, to the arches of my feet.

He raised himself then, and suckled my breasts for a long time, and I ran my hand up his back and cupped his buttocks, naked and vulnerable in the dark.

Afterward, we lay in a pleasantly vermiform tangle, the only light in the room a faint glow from the banked hearth. I was so tired that I could feel my body sinking into the mattress, and desired nothing more than to keep going down, down, into the welcoming dark of oblivion.



A moment's hesitation, then his hand found mine, curling round it.

"Ye wouldna do what she did, would ye?"


"Her. The Dutchwoman."

Snatched back from the edge of sleep, I was muzzy and confused, sufficiently so that even the image of the dead woman, shrouded in her apron, seemed unreal, no more disturbing than the random fragments of reality my brain tossed overboard in a vain effort to keep afloat as I sank down into the depths of sleep.

"What? Fall into the fire? I'll try not," I assured him, yawning. "Goodnight."

"No. Wake up." He shook my arm gently. "Talk to me, Sassenach."

"Ng." It was a considerable effort, but I pushed away the enticing arms of Morpheus, and flounced over onto my side, facing him. "Mm. Talk to you. About--?"

"The Dutchwoman," he repeated patiently. "If I were to be killed, ye wouldna go and kill your whole family, would ye?"

"What?" I rubbed my free hand over my face, trying to make some sense of this, amid the drifting shreds of sleep. "Whose whole...oh. You think she did it on purpose? Poisoned them."

"I think maybe so."

His words were no more than a whisper, but they brought me back to full consciousness. I lay silent for a moment, then reached out, wanting to be sure he was really there.

He was; a large, solid object, the smooth bone of his hip warm and live under my hand.

"It might as well have been an accident," I said, voice pitched low. "You can't know for sure."

"No," he admitted. "But I canna keep from seeing it." He turned restlessly onto his back.

"The men came," he said softly, to the beams overhead. "He fought them, and they killed him there, on his own threshold. And when she saw her man was gone...I think she told the men she must feed the weans first, before...and then she put toadstools into the stew, and fed it to the bairns and her mother. She took the two men with them, but I think it was _that_ that was the accident. She only meant to follow him. She wouldna leave him there, alone."

I wanted to tell him that this was a rather dramatic interpretation of what we had seen. But I couldn't very well tell him he was wrong. Hearing him describe what he saw in thought, I saw it too, all too clearly.

"You don't know," I said at last, softly. "You can't know." _Unless you find the other men_, I thought suddenly, _and ask them_. I didn't say that, though.

Neither of us spoke for a bit. I could tell that he was still thinking, but the quicksand of sleep was once more pulling me down, clinging and seductive.

"What if I canna keep ye safe?" he whispered at last. His head moved suddenly on the pillow, turning toward me. "You and the rest of them? I shall try wi' all my strength, Sassenach, and I dinna mind if I die doing it--but what if I should die too soon--and fail?"

And what answer was there to that?

"You won't," I whispered back. He sighed, and bent his head, so his forehead rested against mine. I could smell eggs and whisky, warm on his breath.

"I'll try not," he said, and I put my mouth on his, soft against mine, acknowledgement and comfort in the dark.

I laid my head against the curve of his shoulder, wrapped a hand round his arm, and breathed in the smell of his skin, smoke and salt, as though he had been cured in the fire.

"You smell like a smoked ham," I murmured, and he made a low sound of amusement and wedged his hand into its accustomed spot, clasped between my thighs.

I let go then, at last, and let the heavy sands of sleep engulf me. Perhaps he said it, as I fell into darkness, or perhaps I only dreamed it.

"If I die," he whispered in the dark, "dinna follow me. The bairns will need ye. Stay for them. I can wait."

[end section]

BONNET - Shock/Suddenness, rather than escalation

Feet trampled back and forth overhead, and she could hear voices, but most of the words were too muffled to make out. There was a chorus of jovial shouts on the side nearest shore, and cordial feminine shrieks in reply.

The cabin had a wide, paned window--did you call it a window on a ship? she wondered, or had it some special nautical name?--that ran behind the bunk, raked back with the angle of the stern. It was made in small, thick panes, set in leading. No hope there of escape, but it did offer the possibility of air, and perhaps information regarding their whereabouts.

Repressing a qualm of nauseated distate, she clambered across the stained and rumpled sheets of the bed. She pressed close to the window and pushed her face into one of the open panes, taking deep breaths to dispel the aromas of the cabin, though the smell of the harbor was no great improvement, rife as it was with the smell of dead fish, sewage, and baking mud.

She could see a small dock, and moving figures on it. A fire was burning on the shore, outside a low, whitewashed building roofed with palmetto leaves. It was too dark to see what, if anything, lay beyond the building. There must be at least a small town, though, judging from the noise of the people on the dock.

"Care to join the party, sweetheart? Or have ye started without me?"

She whirled on her knees, heart hammering in her throat. Bonnet stood inside the door to the cabin, a bottle in one hand and a slight smile on his face. She took a deep breath to quell the shock, and nearly gagged on the stale scent of sex that wafted from the sheets under her knees. She scrambled off the bed, heedless of her clothes, and felt a rip at the waist as her knee caught in her skirt.

"Where are we?" she demanded. Her voice sounded shrill, panicked to her own ears.

"On the [ ]," he said patiently, still smiling.

"You know that isn't what I mean!" The neck of her chemise had torn, and most of one breast was exposed; she put up a hand, pushing the fabric back in place.

"Do I?" He set the bottle on the desk, and reached to unfasten the stock from his neck. "Ah, that's better." He rubbed at the dark red line across his throat, and she had a sudden, piercing vision of Roger's throat, with its ragged scar.

"I wish to know what this town is called," she said, deepening her voice and fixing him with a gimlet eye. She didn't expect that what worked on her father's tenants would work on him, but the assumption of an air of command helped to steady her a bit.

"Well, that's an easily gratified wish, to be sure." He waved a casual hand toward the shore. "Roanoke." He shucked his coat, tossing it carelessly over the stool. The linen of his shirt was crumpled, and clung damply to his chest and shoulders.

"Ready, darlin'? Ye'd best take off the gown; it's hot."

He reached for the strings that tied his shirt, and she moved abruptly away from the bed, glancing round the cabin, searching the shadows for something that could be used as a weapon. Stool, lamp, logbook, bottle...there. A piece of wood showed among the rubble on the desk, the blunt end of a marlinspike.

He frowned, attention fastened momentarily on a knot in the string. She took two long steps and seized the marlinspike, yanking it off the desk in a shower of rubbish and clanging oddments.

"Stand back." She held the thing like a baseball bat, gripped in both hands. Sweat streamed down the hollow of her back, but her hands felt cold and her face went hot and cold and hot again, ripples of heat and terror rolling down her skin.

Bonnet looked at her as though she had gone mad.

"Whatever will ye be after doing with that, woman?" He left off fiddling with his shirt and took a step toward her. She took one back, raising the club.

"Don't fucking touch me!"

He stared at her, eyes fixed wide, pale green and unblinking above a small, odd smile. Still smiling, he took another step toward her. Then another, and the fear boiled off in a surge of rage. Her shoulders bunched and lifted, ready.

"I mean it! Stand back or I'll kill you. I'll know who this baby's father is, if I die for it!"

He had raised a hand, as though to grasp the club and jerk it away from her, but at this, he stopped abruptly.

"Baby? You are with child?"

She swallowed, her breath still thick in her throat. The blood hammered in her ears, and the smooth wood was slick with sweat from her palms. She tightened her grip, trying to keep the rage alive, but it was already dying.

"Yes. I think so. I'll know for sure in two weeks."

His sandy eyebrows lifted.

"Hm!" With a short grunt, he stepped back, surveying her with interest. Slowly, his eyes traveled over her, appraising her one bared breast.

The sudden spurt of rage had drained away, leaving her breathless and empty-bellied. She kept hold of the marlinspike, but her wrists quivered, and she lowered it.

"Is that the way of it, then?"

He leaned forward and reached out, quite without lascivious intent now. Startled, she froze for an instant, and he weighed the breast in one hand, kneading thoughtfully, as though it were a grapefruit he meant to buy at market. She gasped and hit at him one-handed with the club, but she had lost what readiness she had, and the blow bounced off his shoulder, rocking him but having little other effect. He grunted and stepped back, rubbing at his shoulder.

"Could be. Well, then." He frowned, and tugged at the front of his breeches, adjusting himself without the slightest embarrassment. "Lucky we're in port, I suppose."

She made no sense whatever of this remark, but didn't care; apparently he had changed his mind upon hearing her revelation, and the feeling of relief made her knees go weak and her skin prickle with sweat. She sat down, quite suddenly, upon the stool, the club clanking to the floor beside her.

Bonnet had put his head out into the corridor, and was bellowing for someone named Orden. Whoever Orden was, he didn't come into the cabin, but within a few moments, a voice mumbled interrogatively outside.

"Fetch me down a whore from the docks," Bonnet said, in the casual tone of one ordering a fresh pint of bitter. "Clean, mind, and fairly young."

He shut the door then, and turned to the table, scrabbling through the debris until he unearthed a pewter cup. He poured a drink, quaffed half of it, and then--seeming belatedly to realize that she was still there--offered her the bottle with a vague "Eh?" of invitation.

She shook her head, wordless. A faint hope had sprung up in the back of her mind. He did have some faint streak of gallantry, or at least decency; he had come back to rescue her from the burning warehouse, and he had left her the stone for what he assumed to be his child. Now he had abandoned his advances, upon hearing that she was with child again. Perhaps he would let her go, then, particularly if she was of no immediate use to him.

" don't want me?" she said, edging her feet under her, ready to leap up and run, as soon as the door opened to admit her replacement. She hoped she could run; her knees were still trembling with reaction.

Bonnet glanced at her, surprised.

"I've split your quim once already, sweetheart," he said, and grinned. "I recall the red hair--a lovely sight, sure--but it wasn't so memorable an experience otherwise that I can't be waitin' to repeat it. Time enough, darlin', time enough." He chucked her negligently under the chin, and gulped more of his drink. "For now, though, Leroi's needing a bit of a gallop."

He glanced at her again, eyes lingering on her body, and pulled once more at the crotch of his breeks. "Sure, ye've a fine arse, too. 'Twould do in a pinch, but I never did have the taste for boys."

Before she could draw breath to reply to this, the door opened, and a young woman slid through, closing it behind her.

She was likely in her twenties, though with a missing molar that showed when she smiled. She was plump and plain-faced, brown-haired, and clean by local standards, though the scent of her sweat and waves of freshly-applied cheap cologne wafted across the cabin, making Brianna want to throw up.

"Hallo, Stephen," the newcomer said, standing on tiptoe to kiss Bonnet's cheek. "Give us a drink to be starting with, eh?"

Bonnet grabbed her, gave her a deep and lingering kiss, then let her go and reached for the bottle.

Coming down onto her heels, she looked at Brianna with detached professional interest, then back at Bonnet, and scratched at her neck.

"You'll have the two of us, Stephen, or shall it be me and her to start? It's a quid more, either way."

Bonnet didn't bother answering, but thrust the bottle into her hand, whipped off the kerchief that hid the swell of her heavy breasts, and began at once to undo his flies. He dropped the breeches on the floor, and without ado, seized the woman by the hips and pressed her against the door.

Guzzling from the bottle she held in one hand, the young woman snatched up her skirts with the other, whisking skirt and petticoat out of the way with a practiced motion that bared her to the waist. Brianna caught a glimpse of sturdy thighs and a patch of dark hair, before they were obscured by Bonnet's buttocks, blond-furred and clenched with effort.

She turned her head away, cheeks burning, but morbid fascination compelled her to glance back. The whore was standing balanced on her toes, squatting slightly to accommodate him, gazing placidly over his shoulder as he thrust and grunted. One hand still held the bottle; the other stroked Bonnet's shoulders in a practiced way. She caught Brianna's eye on her, and winked, still saying, "Ooh, yes..oh, YES! That's good, love, so good...." in her client's ear.

The cabin door quivered with each meaty thump of the whore's backside, and Brianna could hear laughter in the corridor outside, both male and female; evidently Orden had brought back enough to supply crew as well as captain.

Bonnet heaved and grunted for a minute or two, then gave a loud groan, his movements suddenly jerky and uncoordinated. The whore put a helpful hand on his buttocks and pulled him close, then relaxed her grip as his body went limp, leaning heavily against her. She supported him for a moment, patting his back matter-of-factly, like a mother burping a baby, then pushed him off.

His face and neck were flushed dark red, and he was breathing heavily. He nodded to the whore, and stooped, fumbling for his breeches. He stood up with them and waved toward the littered desk.

"Help yourself to your pay, darlin', but give me back the bottle, aye?"

The whore pouted slightly, but took a final deep gulp of the liquor and handed him the bottle, now no more than a quarter full. She pulled a wadded cloth from the pocket at her waist and clapped it between her thighs, then shook down her skirts and minced across to the desk, poking delicately among the litter for scattered coins, which she picked out with two fingers, dropping them one by one into the depths of her pocket.

Bonnet, clothed once more, went out without a backward glance at the two women. The air in the cabin was hot and thick with the scent of sex, and Brianna felt her stomach clench. Not with revulsion, but with panic. The strong male reek had triggered an instinctive flush of response that tingled across her breasts and gripped her inwardly; for a brief, disorienting moment, she felt Roger's skin, slick with sweat against her own, and her breasts tingled, swollen and wanting.

She pressed both lips and legs tight together, and curled her hands into fists, breathing shallowly. The last thing she could stand right now, she thought, the very last thing--was to think of Roger and sex, while anywhere within miles of Stephen Bonnet. She resolutely pushed the thought aside, and edged closer to the whore, searching for some remark with which to open conversation.

The whore sensed the movement, and glanced at Brianna, taking in both the torn dress and its quality, but then dismissed her, in favor of finding more coins. Once she had her pay, the woman would leave, going back to the docks. It was a chance to get word to Roger and her parents. Not much, perhaps, but a chance.

" him well?" she said.

The whore glanced at her, eyebrows lifted.

"Who? Oh, Stephen? Aye, he's a good 'un, Stephen." She shrugged. "Don't take more than two or three minutes, no bones about the money, never wants nothin' but a simple swive. He's rough now and then, but he don't hit unless you cross him, and no one's fool enough to do that. Not more than once, anyroad." Her gaze lingered for a moment on Brianna's torn dress, one brow lifting sardonically.

"I'll remember that," Brianna said dryly, and pulled the edge of her ripped chemise up higher.

"I was that surprised," the whore went on, eyeing Brianna with open curiosity. "He's never had two girls together, so far as I know, and he's not one as wants someone to watch while he's at his pleasure."

"I'm not--" Brianna began, but then stopped, not wanting to offend the woman.

"Not a whore?" The young woman grinned broadly, exposing the black gap of her missing tooth. "I might ha' guessed as much, chickie. Not as it would make no nevermind to Stephen. He sows as he likes, and I can see as how he might like you. Most men would." She looked at Brianna with dispassionate assessment, nodding at her disheveled hair, flushed face, and tidy figure.

"I expect they like you, too," Brianna said politely, with a faint feeling of surreality. "Er...What's your name?"

"Hepzibah," the woman said, with an air of pride. "Or Eppie, for short, like." There were coins still left on the desk, but the whore left them alone. Bonnet might be generous, but evidently the whore didn't want to take advantage of him--more likely a sign of fear than of friendship, Brianna thought. She took a deep breath and pressed on.

"What a lovely name. Pleased to meet you, Eppie." She held out a hand. My name is Brianna Fraser MacKenzie." She gave all three names, hoping the whore would remember at least one of them.

The woman glanced at the extended hand in puzzlement, then gingerly shook it, dropping it like a dead fish. She pulled up her skirt, and began to clean herself with the rag, fastidiously wiping away all trace of the recent encounter.

Brianna leaned closer, bracing herself against the odors of the stained rag, the woman's body, and the hot smell of liquor on her breath.

"Stephen Bonnet kidnapped me," she said.

"Oh, aye?" said the whore, indifferent. "Well, he takes as he likes, does Stephen."

"I want to get away," Brianna said, keeping her voice low, with a glance at the cabin door. She could hear the sound of feet on the deck overhead, and hoped voices wouldn't carry through the heavy planks.

Eppie wadded up the rag and dropped it on the desk. She rummaged in her pocket, coming out with a small bottle stoppered with a plug of wax. She still held her skirts up, and Brianna could see the silvery streaks of stretchmarks across her plump belly.

"Well, give him what he wants, then," the whore advised, taking out the plug and pouring a bit of the bottle's contents--a surprisingly mild scent of rosewater--into her hand. "Chances are he'll tire of ye in a few days and put ye ashore." She wiped the rosewater lavishly over her pubic hair, then sniffed critically at her hand, and made a face.

"No. I mean, that's not what he kidnapped me for. I don't think," she added. She wasn't positive what he had taken her for; the whim of a moment, or had he some plan in mind? Perhaps he would decide to put her ashore, if he had changed his mind about raping her--but it wasn't a chance she could count on.

Eppie recorked the bottle, and dropped both it and the rag into her pocket.

"Oh, he means to ransom you?" Eppie eyed her with a little more interest. "Still, I've never known scruples interfere with the man's appetite. He'd take a virgin's maidenhead and sell her back to her father before her belly started swelling." She pursed her lips, a belated thought coming to her.

"So how did you talk him out of havin' you, then?"

Brianna put a hand on her stomach, smiling wryly.

"I told him I was pregnant. That stopped him. I wouldn't have thought--a man like that--but it did. Perhaps he's better than you think?" she asked, with a wisp of hope.

Eppie laughed at that, small eyes squeezing half-shut with hilarity at the thought.

"Stephen? God, no!" She sniffed with amusement, and jerked shut the strings of her pocket. She lifted her skirt again, tying the pocket carefully out of sight between skirt and petticoat.

"No," she went on, more matter-of-factly, "Best story you could tell, though, if you don't want him at you. He called me down to him once, then put me off when he saw I'd a cake in the oven--when I joked him about it, he said he'd once taken a whore with her belly the size of a cannonball, and right in the midst of it, she give a groan and the blood come spurting out of her fit to drench the room. Put him right off, he said, and no wonder. Left our Stephen with a horror of swiving girls what are up the spout. He's takin' no chances, see."

"I see." A trickle of sweat ran down Brianna's cheek, and she wiped it away with the back of her hand. Her mouth felt dry, and she sucked the inside of her cheek for moisture. "The woman--what happened to her?"

Hepzibah looked blank for a moment.

"Oh, the whore? Why, she died, of course, poor cow. Stephen said as how he was struggling to get into his wet breeches, all soused with blood like they were, and he looked up and saw her layin' still as stone on the floor, but with her belly still wriggling and twitching like a bag full o' snakes. Said it come to him sudden that the babe meant to come out and take its revenge on him, and he fled the house right then in his shirt, leavin' his breeches behind."

She chortled at this amusing vision, then snorted and settled herself, brushing down her skirts. "But then, Stephen's Irish," she added tolerantly. "They take morbid fancies, the Irish, especially when they're gone in drink." The tip of her tongue came out and passed reminiscently over her lower lip, tasting the lingering traces of Bonnet's liquor.

Brianna leaned closer, holding out her hand.


Hepzibah glanced into her hand, then looked again, riveted. The thick gold band with its big cabochon ruby winked and glowed in the lanternlight.

"I'll give it to you," Brianna said, lowering her voice, "if you'll do something for me."

The whore licked her lips again, a sudden look of alertness coming into her heavy face.

"Aye? Do what?"

"Get word to my father or my husband. Tell them where I am, and tell them--" she hesitated. What should she say? There was no telling how long the [ship] would stay here, or where Bonnet would choose to go next. The only clue she had was what she had overhead in his conversation with his mate.

"Tell them I think he has a hiding place on Ocracoke. He'll head there sooner or later--by the end of the month. He means to rendezvous with someone at the dark of the moon, and I think it will be there. Tell them that."

Hepzibah cast an uneasy glance at the cabin door, but it stayed shut. She looked back at the ring, longing for it warring in her face with an obvious fear of Bonnet.

"He won't know," Brianna urged. "He won't find out. And my father will reward you."

"He's a rich man, then, your father?" Brianna saw the look of calculation in the whore's eyes, and felt a moment's misgiving--what if she should simply take the ring and betray her to Bonnet? Still, she hadn't taken more money than her due; perhaps she was honest. And there was no choice, after all.

"Very rich," she said firmly. "So is my aunt. She has a plantation called River Run, just above Cross Creek in North Carolina. Ask for Mrs. Innes--Jocasta Cameron Innes. Yes, that's best--send word there."

"River Run." Hepzibah repeated it obediently, eyes still fixed on the ring.

Brianna twisted it off and dropped it into the whore's palm before she could change her mind. The woman's hand closed tight around it.

"My father's name is Jamie Fraser; my husband is Roger MacKenzie. Can you remember?"

"Fraser," Hepzibah repeated uncertainly. "Oh, aye, to be sure." She was already moving toward the door.

"Please," Brianna said urgently.

The whore nodded, but without looking at her, then sidled through the door, shutting it behind her.

The ship creaked and swayed underfoot, and she heard the rattle of wind through the trees on the shore, over the shouts of drunken men. Her knees gave way then and she sat down on the bed, careless of the sheets.

[end section]