Coming Soon in May
Linda Kay Silva
Quinn Gallagher had soft, creamy thighs pressed against her ears so she didn’t hear the wooden door fracture as it blew open until it was too late.
“Think you can just waltz in here and bed me woman, you filthy cur?”
Before Quinn could lift her head from between the woman’s legs, the large, red-bearded man grabbed her by the back of her leather jerkin and flung her like a rag doll against the far wall. Her shoulders and head slammed hard into the wood.
The woman screamed and covered herself up. “Sachin! No!”
“No?” The large man growled, ambling over to where a crumpled Quinn was slowly rising to her feet. “Ya let another man touch ya and think I’ll let him live?” Grabbing Quinn by the throat with one hand, he brought his meaty fist back. “And a pitiful excuse of a man he is.” As the giant glared at Quinn, the woman leapt on her husband’s back and started beating him about the head.
“Get off me, you crazy bitch!” Releasing Quinn, Red Beard grabbed a handful of his wife’s hair and pulled her over his shoulder where she landed with a thump on the hard floor. As he cocked his fist once more, Quinn dove at him, burying her shoulder into his abdomen.
A “woof” sound was forced from his lungs as they crashed into the far wall, knocking frames down and sending candles crashing to the ground.
The two of them fell to the floor, with Quinn landing on top. In one swift motion, she pulled her boot dagger out and pressed it against his neck. “Twitch and I’ll make your throat look like it’s smiling.”
Red Beard stopped struggling and glared hard into Quinn’s face. “Yas don’t got the stones.
“Au contraire my foul smelling jackass. Do you know who Captain Grace O’Malley is?”
“Of course I do. Don’t be daft. Everra one knows who she is.”
“Well you see, she’s my captain, and if she hears that you have abused this poor woman in any way, we will return to gut you like a fish while we both stand and watch. Do you understand what I am saying?”
He cursed then nodded.
“Good. This is no idle threat. Had I known she was a wife, I would not have presumed myself upon her as I have. My apologies for doing so. It won’t happen again. M’lady,” Quinn asked, not looking up from her adversary. “Would you be so kind as to place the tip of my sword upon his brow?”
The woman scrambled to retrieve a sword from beside the bed and then placed the tip near Red Beard’s eye. Quinn quickly rose and jumped back, her dagger in front of her. “Now I shall take my leave. Mark my words, you scurrilous lout: touch a hair on her head and we will come for you. There is no place you can run or hide that Grace O’Malley’s pirates won’t find you and…what did I say we would do to you?”
“Gut me like a fish.” Every word was said with a slight growl.
“You’d do well to remember that.” With that, Quinn grabbed her seaman’s jacket and bolted from the house, just in time to catch up with the rest of the crew as they made their way back to the ship.
“Callaghan! How are you doing, man? Collectin’ more wenches’ hearts?”
Quinn smiled and joined the men who had no idea she was a woman. “Never been better, Connor. Never been better.”
They headed back to a large Galleon ship that was creaking and groaning as it gently bobbed in the water just off the pier. Men were on their hands and knees scrubbing blood from the deck while others made various repairs to the masts and sails. There was always work to be done on a ship of this size. Two hundred plus men and yet the labor never seemed to end. That’s what had surprised Quinn the most when she first forged her way onto the ship dressed as a man over a month ago. The work was as endless as the sea and yet, she had somehow managed to trade her noble woman’s uncomfortable dresses for the more casual and relaxed pants and leather jerkin pirates so often wore.
She had never expected to enjoy being a pirate. It wasn’t as if she’d always longed to be one. No, she was here out of sheer desperation.
That first moment she stood before Captain Grace O’Malley, queen of Connacht and chieftain of the O’Malley clan, Quinn thought she might wet herself. Never had she met a more intimidating person, male or female, than this woman.
Standing at nearly six feet, red hair flowing about her like a lion’s mane, sizing Quinn up with eyes that looked like they were piercing her soul, Grace O’Malley was everything Quinn had read about and more. She had a commanding presence that made you know she was royalty, that she was a leader, that she demanded your respect or your head. She was in a word, self possessed, and Quinn hadn’t been at all certain if gaining access to the ship was the right thing to do.
She’s nearly fainted that first day when Grace O’Malley tilted her head this way and that before asking Quinn if she’s been weaned yet. She made a remark about Quinn’s soft skin and asked if she’d ever shaved. Grace O’Malley had eyes like a hawk, and when they locked onto Quinn’s face, she felt as if this woman was seeing right through her.
But Quinn had needed this ship. She had needed the likes of a pirate queen who could get her where she needed to go without fear of being molested or badgered by men.
And the only way to do that was to become one of them.
No man wanted a woman on board a pirate ship –– they were considered bad luck. And even though Grace commanded this vessel, that theory still applied for reasons Quinn was never quite sure of.
In the end, it hadn’t mattered. Grace accepted Quinn Gallahger as Kieran Callaghan, and took her on as the lowliest member of the crew...meaning she did all the shite work.
That was a month ago, and so far, being on a pirate ship was not at all what she’d expected.
She hadn’t anticipated such a familial environment where these men seemed to actually embrace each other and enjoy each other’s somewhat robust company. She hadn’t expected to be in awe of the commanding presence of Grace O’Malley and the way she ordered men about. It was exhilarating to watch them scurry around following her orders. In Quinn Gallagher’s elite world, women were nothing more than chattel to be sealed away and treated with little more difnity than a prized horse. To watch this woman lead was awe inspiring.
But most of all, Quinn hadn’t expected to fall in love with being a pirate.
That month had been an eye-opening experience for the two siblings who had grown up in manors, with servants and privilege. As members of the newly formed noble class of Irish, they had never had to fight for anything, and it showed on Patrick. In the time they’d been on the ship, Patrick had lost weight, suffered three slash wounds, and wore a sickly green pallor whenever the seas became rough.
Which was almost always.
Still, she wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything, as Quinn had already seen more of the world in one monh than she had in twenty-two years of living.
She loved it. Everything about it, from the simplicity of the salt air on her face to the hazards of swinging aboard another ship in order to plunder it, she loved it all. The camaraderie, the freedom, and the comfort of walking about unmolested by men was astounding to her.
She loved it.
And in the quiet nights that she lay in her bunk thinking about the promise she’d made and why she had donned male attire, Quinn never forgot the real reason for her duplicity.
As much as she loved being a pirate, she loved Shea even more. She needed to keep the promise she’d made to Shea long ago when they were children…a promise she was certain Shea would have kept for her.
“Daydreamin’ again, Callaghan?” Grace’s voice boomed from the prow where she oversaw the cleaning crew.
“Yes, sir. No, sir. Uh…”
Grace O’Malley threw her head back and belted out a laugh that carried across the ship. “For Pete’s sake, Callaghan, get yer arse back to a tavern and enjoy some land time. I sent word we’d not be shoving off til mornin’. You have plenty more time to bed plenty more wenches. Now, off with ya before I find some work fer ya to do.”
Connor grabbed Quinn’s arm and yanked her toward the plank. “She doesn’t have to tell me twice. Come on, Callaghan. Let’s go find some more tender, juicy snacks.”
Connor McBride was the first pirate Quinn had approached at the Ox Bow Tavern in Galway. He asked her if she could play cards and she said she could, though she’d only ever watched her brother, Patrick, play. At the end of the night, Quinn had won and when she turned to Connor to give him her winnings, he offered to bring her to Grace.
They’d been friends ever since, and Connor had showed her how to work a sail, how to shoot a bow, and how to avoid the grunt work the others hated doing.
As they left the ship, Quinn glanced over her shoulder and watched Grace shout out orders to the rest of the men.
Captain Grace O’Malley had changed Quinn’s life.
Now, she wasn’t so sure she could ever go back to the old one.