I’m more than happy today to be hosting my good friend and mentor Charlie Cochrane, general good egg and huge fun as well as being the wildly talented author of some of my favourite books. Her latest offering in the terrific Portkennack series was released recently and she has been kind enough to answer my questions about it.

Welcome, Charlie!

I’ve read all the Porthkennack books so far and have been delighted at how they paint a picture of the community, past and present. With each book a little more is added to the portrait. What do you like best about writing in the Porthkennack sandbox?

Where do I start? Playing with other people’s toys is always fun, as is working with their ideas. I confess to having had concerns about writing in a universe that had been invented by somebody else, but it’s been remarkably freeing. I guess all the hard work of world building has been done for us.

It’s also been good working with other authors who are also friends. In the early days be bounced lots of ideas of one another, from where the museum would be and who’d run it, to names for the local beer. These things are vitally important!

What non-spoilery plans do you have to add to the village or, on the other hand, is there anything you feel would be inappropriate to find in such a thriving community?

I’ve been fortunate to write one contemporary and one historical, so the different time settings has allowed me to write in a totally different way about the same place. The storylines haven’t had to interact, although there is a thread of buildings and locations which recur in the two stories. I think I’m the only author – so far – exploring Porthkennack in its immediately post Great War guise.

In terms of inappropriate, the thing which would worry me is if Porthkennack turned into a community where everyone was LGBT, a sort of fantasy land which would not be true to its geographical location. Avoiding that will mean a light touch from all those involved, but I’m sure we can deliver on that.

What one commemorative event do you feel has best encapsulated the tragedy and pathos of the “War to End All Wars”?

Oh, what a question. I’d have to say the poppies at the Tower of London. For me, it captured the sheer scale of the losses; every poppy was somebody’s child. Running those a close second would be the events commemorating the Battle of the Somme and the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendale). Russell Tovey as Tubby Clayton was superb.

What are you working on now and can we have an excerpt, please?

I’m working on the second draft of another Cambridge Fellows mystery novella. This is very rough and ready! Orlando is trying to get two minutes of peace in the college garden.

“I wondered if I’d find you here.” Jonty’s voice sounded through the railings of the gate.

Orlando looked up, as though completely surprised. “Oh, hello. I was trying to find a moment’s peace.” He waved the papers.

“Sorry. Didn’t realise you were hard at work with your sums. I thought you might be sunbathing. Or resting your legs after the cricket.” Jonty plonked his backside two feet along the bench.

“And how exactly did you know I might be here?” Orlando asked, neatly sidestepping the aching legs issue.

“You were seen by Swann, that rather nice new porter. Limping along—you, not him and his words, not mine—in this general direction. I deduced,” Jonty grinned at the word, “that you’d not make it all the way home so would likely seek a few minutes of repose. And what nicer place could a man find to repose in than this?”

“That last point is indisputable,” Orlando conceded. “Although I’ll take issue with ‘limping’. I merely had a stone in my shoe and had to find a suitable place in which to remove it. I have killed two birds with the proverbial stone.” He brandished the papers again, having risked contradicting his earlier statement.

“You’re not very good at telling fibs, so I don’t know why you bother.” Jonty gazed up at the sky. “What a beautiful day. God’s in a very blue heaven and all is right with the world. Have you had a good day?”

“Excellent, thank you.” Orlando slipped the papers back into his briefcase—what was the use of pretence? “You?”

“Pretty good. All set for the arrival of the dreaded dunderheads. I see the college staff are fumigating the rooms and nailing down anything pawnable in preparation.” Jonty narrowed his eyes then sighed. “All we need now is a case. I think I’ve sufficiently recovered from the last one.”

“I’m not sure I’ll ever recover.” Orlando rolled his eyes. Being asked to defend one’s deadliest enemy on a charge of murder, and in circumstances where superficially he appeared to be as guilty as sin, would have tried the patience of any man. “But another case would be very gratifying.”

“And it would stop you moping.” Jonty gave a sly little sidelong grin.

“I haven’t been moping! Have I?” Orlando added, guiltily. He couldn’t deny his thoughts had turned more than once to the intellectual stimulation of a case, and how much he had missed it through the summer months. Even when they’d holidayed on Jersey he’d occasionally wished a nice, juicy mystery might fall across their path. Not a murder, as he wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but perhaps a missing item to be located or a—

Jonty’s voice cut into his thoughts. “Are you listening? What do you think?”

Orlando, who’d learned it was pointless to pretend he’d been listening or to venture something like, “I need time to consider the matter,” said, “I think I’ve forgotten to pick up the post from my pigeon hole. I’ll need to go back to the porters’ lodge.”

About the Book

Michael Gray returned from World War One injured, but at least he returned. Others were not so fortunate, including his first and greatest love, Thomas Carter-Clemence, with whom Michael had parted bitterly before the conflict began.

Broch, the Carter-Clemence home in Porthkennack, was an integral part of pre-war holidays for the Grays, the two families drawn together in the wake of their sons’ friendship. Returning to the once-beloved Cornish coast for a break with his sister and her family, Michael has to find the courage to face old memories . . . and dare new relationships.

When Thomas’s brother Harry makes an unexpected appearance, Michael is surprised to find himself deeply attracted to Harry for his own sake. But as their relationship heats up, it unearths startling revelations and bitter truths. Michael must decide whether Harry is the answer to his prayers or the last straw to break an old soldier’s back.

Buy Links

Riptide Publishing | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Kobo | Smashwords | iTunes


About the Author

Photo by Templedragon

Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her mystery novels include the Edwardian era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw Mysteries, while her romances feature in the Portkennack series.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at literary festivals and at reader and author conferences with The Deadly Dames.



Website: http://www.charliecochrane.co.uk

Blog http://charliecochrane.livejournal.com/ and https://charliecochrane.wordpress.com/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/charlie.cochrane.18

Twitter: https://twitter.com/charliecochrane

GR: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2727135.Charlie_Cochrane





Time for another totally random snippet of a work in progress – because there always in a work in progress even if the progress is sometimes veerrrryyy veeerrrryyy sloooooow.

Here’s a bit – rough as a badger’s – of Close Shave, book 2 of the Pemberland series, in which barber Terry plies his trade:

Market day in Pemberland was always a crush. The market hall, echoing abode of pigeons on most days, was cleared out and stalls set up. Cars lined the streets, many of them genuine off road jobs with mud to the hubcaps and dog hair, binder twine and sheep shit on the back seats. If the farmers, their kids and spouses only came to town once a week they had a lot to fit in and hair-cuts were popular.

Typical of bloody Kevin, Terry thought. Why did he have to pick now to play the family card.

Not that Kevin was family – not any more. Julie had fled their grim little flat in Pemberland and had returned to the family home with her kids and just what they had stood up in. Terry and his Dad had to go to the flat to collect her clothes and the kids’ things and Rob had come along to, as he put it, provide some muscle. The state the place had got into, just in the week since Julie had left it, had been shocking. Kevin just didn’t seem to be able to see that being a layabout might hurt his family but the final straw for Julie was when he’d forgotten, again, to pick them up from school and their six year old twins had been found trying to walk home in the rain. Terry could have killed Kevin for that alone, but Julie had admitted that was the least of it.

“I don’t mind working,” she said, “and I don’t mind being the responsible one, but he drinks every penny and his friends – oh dear lord, his friends make me sick and that Wiggy… He’s just not normal and Kevin thinks the sun shines out of his arse. I don’t think Kev’s normal either, not when he’s on the cider.”

“Like father like son,” Dad said. “Though I guess you wouldn’t have had this trouble with Rob.”

Terry thought wistfully of Kevin’s brother who had led the tweedy little museum curator astray and seemed to have moved into in the flat upstairs. Not that Terry and Rob had ever… Not really each other’s type. And not that Mal was little – everyone seemed a bit on the small side to Terry – but their blissful domesticity sounded so nice.

He made one last sweep of the razor across Gary’s gleaming scalp and wiped the blade with a towel.

“You’re done,” he said. “If you could settle up with Lil on the way out?”
They all drew back as Gary called Morris and the mountain of fur got up and padded after him to the door. “Rugby practice Monday?” Gary asked.

“Usual time, usual place,” Terry said. “Next.”

“That’d be me.” Kevin began to get up.

“No it wouldn’t.” The heavy set farmer next to him nodded to the other room. “It’s that young bloke in there, then me, then Alwyn, THEN you.”

Terry, who knew exactly who was where in the queue but had been giving Kevin a chance to do the decent thing, leaned into the doorway of the ladies’ salon. “Mal, your turn.”

Mal was perched on a stool by Lydia Garth and seemed to be showing her photos on his phone. He grinned at Terry, murmured to Lydia, making her laugh again then got up and hurried in.

“Lydia’s going to London to see Kinky Boots,” he said as he got into the chair. “Lucky lady. She’s offered me a lift to Hereford.”

“Meeting at County Hall again?” Alwyn Derry looked up from his copy of the Chronicle. “What’s it about this time?”

“Budget cuts, as usual.”

“What do we need a museum for anyway?” Kevin muttered, levelling a poisonous look at Mal. “It’s shameful the way they’re wasting our tax money and cutting benefits to people who need ’em.”

“Since when did you need them?” Alwyn turned a page in the paper. “When I was in Rowbottom’s he said he’d given you a job clearin’ out those old garages.”

“Yeah? So? That’s why my back’s bad now, isn’t it?” Kevin rolled his eyes then went back to glaring at Mal. Terry caught his eye in the mirror and Kevin flushed and turned away.

“Now Mal,” Terry ran his fingers through the fine brown hair still holding its shape well from the last cut but a little shaggy around the ears. “Just a trim is it or do you have something more ambitious in mind.”

“Oh God no, just a trim please.” Mal grimaced. “Got to look smart and professional if I’m going to beg, haven’t I?”

Terry snipped away at the fine brown strands until he felt Mal passed muster – smart but not too traditional – then rubbed some product into the hair and combed it into a rather racier shape than, he knew, Mal could be bothered to achieve on his own.
“There,” he said. “Knock ’em dead.”

“I’ll try.” Mal grinned his thanks as he got out of the chair. “I’ll go keep Lydia company, she must be almost done.”

“Cool, and can you send Adrian in to sweep up?” Terry waved him out of the way. “Next.”


I’m out of the habit of posting snippets. Mostly because I don’t write as much. But here’s a little bit of Midnight Flit [working title], a sequel to Eleventh Hour set in 1931.

Miles and Briers are back together after six months apart:

Miles felt squashed and sticky, breathless and bruised – because the cushions weren’t that thick despite the layer of bedding and the carefully positioned towels Briers had laid down. He also felt bloody marvellous.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
“No – thank you,” Briers said. “Can’t remember the last time I came that hard.”
“I do,” Miles said grinning at the street lamp light on the ceiling. “It was in that meadow above Chamonix when we were having a roll in that haystack and those hikers came along and had a picnic round the other side of it and we were both already too far along to stop. You said the same then. I think danger must sharpen the sensation for you or something.”
“You think?” Briers shifted enough to bite Miles’s ear. “I didn’t notice you being a shrinking violet. I didn’t notice you saying “no, no stop it immediately”. I mean, if you’d really wanted me to stop I would have done.”
“Oh, but when would we have got another opportunity. Perfect haystack, perfect view of Mont Blanc. There were even goats.”
Briers snorted. “And you acted out a fantasy you’d had ever since reading Heidi, you lovely little pervert, you.”

More another time.

This will be available on November the first but is up for pre-orders now. Personally, I can’t wait for my copy.

Seventeen stories, thirteen authors, a second war. Once again Manifold Press’s writers explore the lives of LGBTQ+ people and their war-time experience in cities, towns and countryside across the world.

Amidst war and peace, in the thick of violence or in an unexpected lull, these stories of the Second World War take the reader far and wide: through Britain, Europe, Asia and South America, from loss and parting to love and homecoming. As for home, it may be an ordinary house, or a prison camp, or a ship: but it is, in the end, where you find it, however far you have to go. Read this book, and make the journey yourself.

An anthology edited by Heloise Mezen and featuring authors:

Julie Bozza – Barry Brennessel – Charlie Cochrane – Andrea Demetrius
Adam Fitzroy – Elin Gregory – Sandra Lindsey – JL Merrow – Eleanor Musgrove
R.A. Padmos – Michelle Peart – Megan Reddaway – Jay Lewis Taylor

94,500 words/TBC pages

Please note: All proceeds will be donated to the British Refugee Council (Registered Charity No. 1014576).

Publication 1 November 2017 but the book is available for pre-order now

Amazon US pre-order link | Amazon UK pre-order link | Smashwords link
Barnes & Noble pre-order link | Kobo pre-order link

More information, including a complete line up of all the stories, is available from the Manifold Press website.

Can’t wait to get my hands on this book!

My guest today is that most delightful of things, a brand new shiny author just out of the wrappings. So, if you like, you can view this post as being a bit like one of those unboxing videos?

I certainly ‘unboxed’ the ARC of Golden and found it to be huge fun – pirates, dragons and harem boys – what’s not to like?

Anyhow, here’s RL Mosswood. Welcome and thanks for being such a good sport about answering my questions.


Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?
Oh yes! I actually pay the bills by originating mortgages, which is more than a full time job because people get very keyed up by the process around buying a house. I’m regularly texting with clients at 9 and 10 at night, and working on emergency approvals over the weekend. I also dabble in audiobook narration and my partner and I grow, preserve, and cook most of our own food on our homestead which is a job in itself.

When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?

Everything. I’m a huge crafter. I crochet, knit, sew, spin, paint a little… I haven’t written about it much, but one of the main characters in my current work in progress is a fiber artist who raises sheep. He’s more accomplished than I am, but the idea wouldn’t have ocurred to me in the first place if it wasn’t something I enjoyed myself.

What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?

I’ve been so overwhelmed with harvest season and the Golden release that I’ve gotten really behind on my to-be-read list. Your book, The Bones of Our Fathers, is actually what’s up on my e-reader right now. I’ve been working my way through it one chapter a night by reading it to my five year old at bedtime (I stop reading out loud if things get steamy).

In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?

I often start with a feel. A setting, a mood, a few bits of description that sort of set the tone. From there, I start to get the idea of the kind of story that could happen in that setting and the kinds of characters that would exist there. The story and characters evolve together, informing one another as the whole thing develops.
Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?

They definitely develop as I write. For instance, I had an idea of Hathar when I started: strong, capable, devil-may-care with confidence bordering on swagger, but I had no idea he was funny until he started saying things that made me laugh.

Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake?

I love historical, and would love to write historical, but given that I can barely find time to write at all, I feel like I wouldn’t get anything done if I had to add in time to research all the little details that I would want to get right. Some day, when the kid is grown and I have more leisure time, I’ll dig out my list of plot bunnies and start working through the ones I can’t do justice to right now.

What inspired you to write about dragons and harems and treasure?

This is exclusive content I’ll only admit to here: 10 months ago, I was at a queer fiction convention with only the tiniest inkling that it might be fun to try my hand at writing something of my own. There was a call for submissions at the back of the program that became the seed of the idea for Golden. It was all an experiment really, to see if I could even write a story that was more than a couple of pages. Turns out, I can.

What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.

It might be a little too strong to say that I’m “working on” it, because that implies that I’m currently making progress, but the next thing in the queue is a contemporary romance that takes place on a permaculture sheep farm. It’s fairly quiet and down to earth, based a lot in my real experiences – pretty much the opposite of the fantasy adventure that is Golden, but I hope readers will stick with me and enjoy it.

Could we please have an excerpt of something?

A sample from Golden:

The baths were unlike anything Hathar had ever seen. Granted, it was a palace, so he had expected luxury, but not on this scale. Large enough to easily accommodate twenty men, the room was completely clad in glowing white marble interrupted only by tasteful, intricate mosaics of fanciful sea creatures. It was filled with warm, diffuse light from windows slatted for privacy and vast domes on the ceiling that seemed to be made of a thick, translucent glass. Past an assortment of platforms and benches for preening and lounging, a steaming pool set into the floor took up a large corner of the room. Constantly refreshed by water bubbling forth from the mouths of carved stone fish that appeared to be eternally leaping from the walls above, the pool overflowed into discreet drains set around its edges. As Hathar gawked at the opulent room, the young man who had taken him from the guard was preparing himself for the baths, removing his shirt and hanging it on one of a series of hooks carved into the stone near the door. Hathar looked back now, just in time to see him shucking off his loosely fitted silken trousers. This was another kind of opulence. The boy’s beauty was at least the equal of the room. His form was slender, but not scrawny. His skin was smooth and full over the contours of his modest muscles, a testament to a life without lack and plenty of tender care. He was fair, but there was a golden undertone to his complexion that was echoed in the burnished gold of his curls and his uncanny amber eyes, which came into view as he straightened. Whoever ran this place had taste, Hathar had to give them that.



Author: R.L. Mosswood

Release Date: September 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-947139-91-6
Format: ePub, Mobi, PDF

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Category: Romance
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Word Count: 33500

Sex Content: Explicit
Pairing: MM
Orientation: Bisexual, Demisexual, Gay
Identity: Cisgender

Purchase Links:

NineStar Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/golden/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B075DG7WCD/
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/golden-rl-mosswood/1127062192?ean=2940154536094
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/extreader/read/746310/1/golden
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/golden-34


Book Blurb
Harem boy might not be the most appropriate role for someone who’s never really seen the appeal of sex, but Elin’s status as dahabi: golden in a land of tan and brown, has marked him for The Dragon’s service since birth. He’s content enough with his life of uncomplicated, if restrictive, luxury, until an unremarkable chore becomes a case of love at first sight.
Mysterious newcomer Hathar, a roguish “merchant adventurer” from far-off lands, ignites an exploration of Elin’s first taste of physical desire, as well as a desire to experience life beyond the palace. Now, they must find a way to escape The Dragon’s clutches before Hathar’s ship departs, stranding them forever as dahabi of the haram.

If you’d like to follow R L Mosswood she can be found on her website here.

Plot bunnies

I’ve been out of bed for half an hour – awful night thanks to the cat who spent several hours thundering around the house and is now curled up on my lap sleeping the sleep of the totally knackered. And in the half hour I’ve been up I’ve been very severely plot bunnied. Normally the stealthy little so and sos creep up on me over months so i get multiple ideas that coalesce into something useful but often I’ve forgotten where they come from. Bt today they all happened so fast that I thought I’d share the thought process.

It’s all Nigella Lawson’s fault.

Photo from BBC iChef

Yes you can smile, you baggage!

So there I was under the cat, cwtched up to the dog, zombily sipping tea with Saturday Kitchen on the telly when Nigella said something about not wanting something to come to a ‘rollicking boil’.

Wham! There was a title AND a character. Rollo Boyle, Irish, of course, a groom turned off by his last master who moved up in the world and wanted someone posher and more servile to run his stable, so, totally pissed off, Rollo heads for home but ends up – wrong place, wrong time – hunted as a highwayman.

Charles Keeping of course, from his illustration series for Albert Noyes rollicking poem

Thump – now I’ve got that damned ‘riding riding riding’ hoofbeat rhythm running through my mind.

Naturally Rollo is a gentleman highwayman, rather than the reality which were mugging bastards who’d smash the fillings from your teeth if they saw the flash of gold. Maybe something along the lines of Jack Carstares in Heyer’s Black Moth?

There are better covers but this is the one on MY copy.

The Black Moth reads like the ecstatic outpourings of a dedicated fangirl – and that’s about right because it’s Heyer’s first book and she was only 19 when it came out. So much angst and passion!!

*considers* naaaaah I cant do that but I can have a bit of fun with the trope. Naturally Rollo must have a great love and make an amazing ride to save him but who could that be? Working on the principle of Sellar’s and Yeatman’s adage that history is what you remember, how many highwaymen do people know about – errrrrrmmmmm – YES Swift Nick!

So Swift Nick was Dick Turpin’s apocryphal sidekick and I don’t see why Nick, Dick and Rollo can’t be a love triangle. Come to that Turpin can be the villain, Rollo’s past employer be a receiver of stolen goods, and at the end Rollo and Nick embark on a ship from Bristol to the Indies where they can enter into happy matelotage.

Believe me when I say that if you read the Newgate Calendar some of the REAL guys did things that the average m/m reader would say ‘no too far fetched’.

And highwaymen were popular subjects of popular songs:

Did you ever hear tell of Rollicking Boyle,
A hero of great renown,
Who boldly bestraddled a galloping nag,
Eastward of London Town

Now when he rode on the highway,
He always had money in store.
And whatever he took from the rich
He freely gave to the poor.

He ne’er robbed a poor man of tuppence
And he ne’er took innocent life.
But the militia took to the road in his wake
Because he’d ne’er take a wife.

And probably a whole load more verses but my head is spinning now and I need another lie down.

Anyhow, yeah – that sort of violent invasive plot bunnying happens to me frequently.

So remember today, because if ever a book called The Ballad of Rollicking Boyle comes out you’ll know you can blame Nigella Lawson.


Treasure is such a fun thing to write about but today I’m posting because it’s RJ Scott’s Birthday Treasure Hunt!

What you do is – you go from blog to blog, there’s a list, picking up clues and finding the answers then on September 3rd you enter the answers on RJs blog.

So, to save you time, here’s Clue Eight – RJ’s favourite season to write about.

Don’t forget to go to RJs blog to fill in the answer.

And now, just to pad the post out a bit, here’s a treasure related snippet from my pirate story On A Lee Shore, because all this talk of treasure has made me feel a bit nostalgic. Kit Penrose, ex-Royal Naval lieutenant, currently a very reluctant pirate, is doing his best to keep to the straight and narrow. Griffin, pirate captain, is determined to lead him astray:

By the time Ciervo was hull down and Kit left his perch to go in search of Griffin, the deck was covered in boxes, barrels, and chests with whooping pirates poring over and pawing through them. Kit picked his way through the mess and found Griffin standing in the shadow thrown by the quarterdeck and looking through a package of charts.

“Kit,” he said, by way of greeting. “Have you come to join in the fair and equal sharing of the spoils?”

“Hardly,” Kit said with a laugh. “And I warned Davy too, not to touch any of it. I might have assisted in sea robbery but I don’t have to profit by it!”

Griffin rolled his eyes. “Foolish boy,” he said. “What you have done today truly makes you a part of the crew. Does it not, Jago?”

“Oh, aye,” Jago said. He was seated on a sea chest with reales spilled about his feet. “And that ought to be marked somehow.”

“It should,” Griffin agreed, his broad grin making Kit feel uneasy. “In fact I have arranged a small ceremony.”

He nodded, and Kit barely had time to protest before many hands grabbed him and someone slung their arm around his neck.

“Hold you still now,” Protheroe said, laughter in his voice. “You’ve earned this.”

“What? No!” Kit struggled, but Protheroe’s forearm was tight across his throat, and he had no choice but to still and watch from the corner of his eye as Lewis dipped a sail needle in brandy, ignited it from a candle, then brought it and a cork close to Kit’s head.

“Don’t get any of that grease in it,” Saunders advised. “We don’t want his ear to rot off.”

“That’s a point,” Lewis said and swabbed around Kit’s ear with brandy.

“But I don’t want—” Kit swallowed the rest of the sentence at the bite of the needle. He glared at Griffin, who laughed at him until the job was done and they released him, an unaccustomed weight dragging at his damaged ear. A whooping cheer went up, partly derisive for they had marked him one of their own despite his wishes, and partly genuine good will.

“Very fine, Kit,” Griffin said, taking him by the shoulders and turning him to look at his adornment. “And we have the mate of that one should you be careless enough to lose it.”

Kit raised a hand to his ear, winced as Saunders slapped his wrist, and brought his fingers away bloody.

“Leave it alone, let it heal,” Saunders advised. “Griffin, Jago, it’s nearing sunset. Should we not be on our way?”

“No rush,” Jago said. “I vote we divvy up here. Make the most of having this fighting platform under our feet.”

Griffin shook his head. “That was not our agreement, Jago. Let it stand. We’ll away to Curacao to careen Garnet and strip this ship at our leisure. Lord knows the Santiago’s boats are more useful to our trade than she is. Come, let us be on our way.”

Jago stirred the silver coins with his boot, his eyes on the sky. “And I say we have no reason to be hasty,” he said. “At the very least let’s put some of the treasure on our own ships in case it begins to blow and we lose touch. Expenses—what do you call them—and we’ll have the proper division when we make port and can get something better than this rot gut sack.” He took another swig from the bottle in his hand and grimaced.

Kit stepped aside as the treasure was sorted and made safe, the quartermasters making two sets of notes and consulting with each other. They even came and looked at Kit’s earring, noting it down as “item, one earbob, gold and emerald—10 reales” which made his eyebrows climb a little.

“You didn’t think I would stint, did you?” Griffin said with a grin when Kit commented on it. “A laborer is worth his hire, and you have served me well in this.”

That brought Kit up short. “Hire,” he said. “I did not do this for hire.”

“Of course.” Griffin nodded and dropped his voice to a murmur. “But for the moment, in present company, let them think that you did. You and I will know better and later—when there is the time and opportunity—I will be happy to show you how very grateful I am.”

There on the deck of the Santiago, surrounded by hallooing pirates, Griffin lifted Kit’s grease-laden hair away from his newly pierced ear. Kit assumed that if anyone noticed they might have thought Griffin was looking at the earring. Only Kit could feel the stroke of fingers at the nape of his neck and the gentle pressure of Griffin’s thumb down his throat. A kiss, Kit decided, would feel even better.