You might have heard me talk about the book Cutlass by Ashley Nixon, if you would like to take a peek at my review you can find it HERE
The second book in the series is coming out May 25th and I had the honor of reading an advanced copy of it and it was AMAZING! Today I am giving you a SNEAK PEEK of the first chapter exclusively to my blog. If you have not read the first book yet, I highly recommend it if you love fantasy, pirates, magic and a very little touch of romance. This is one of my favorites series but before you get to the chapter take a look at the cover and synopsis.
Flintlock (Cutlass #2)
by Ashley Nixon
Published April 2015 by StarSeed Press
Barren Reed hopes to protect the Orient from his tyrant uncle, but his plans to make the King’s life a living hell aren’t supported by the Elders of the pirate community. As it stands, Barren has earned the Elders’ disdain for his carelessness, and they threaten him into exile if he makes one more mistake.
Barren’s not the only one feeling the Elders’ wrath—they don’t trust Larkin either. Worse, Barren can’t comprehend Larkin’s wish to have a relationship with her father, and the secrets she’s forced to keep create a tension that may pull them apart forever.
When the Pirates of Silver Crest begin to die, bullets laced with dark magic are to blame. With more and more of these weapons infiltrating the Underground, discovering who’s behind the dissemination is no easy feat. As fear and tension mount among the people of the Orient, Barren and his crew find themselves in a race against time to stop the spread of dark magic before the world of Mariana spirals into collapse.
Chapter One – Rough House
The note came to land discreetly upon the rough-grained table. Barren Reed stared at it for a moment before unfolding the message. Scrawled in his brethren, Taisce’s, handwriting were two simple words. They’re here.
He stared at the message for a long moment before mashing it between his hands and shoving it deep in his coat pocket. It was the report he had expected: privateers were using Occident, one of many islands nearest Silver Crest, as a launching pad for their campaign against pirates. Attacks had occurred all over the Orient, but the ones that bothered Barren the most were those that were closest to Silver Crest. King Tetherion and his sons, Datherious and Natherious, knew the location of Silver Crest, and their slow threat was teasing. Barren knew that one word from Tetherion and the entire island would be obliterated—he questioned only what Tetherion was waiting for.
In hindsight, delivering the Princes and Lord Christopher Lee in chains to the king probably hadn’t been his best idea, but it was memorable and sent a message—he was ready for a fight. But Tetherion had been ready to fight, too, and sooner than Barren had bargained for.
Luckily, Alex and the captains of Silver Crest had begun to mobilize once word of Tetherion and the twins’ betrayals reached them. Many women and children had been moved to Sanctuary, a fortified island that still remained a secret from Tetherion and the twins. After years of dormancy, the pirates would have to resort to what they knew best to protect Saoirse—piracy, in its most basic form.
People were losing their lives. The privateers who were meeting the pirates of Silver Crest were more skilled than previous privateers they’d encountered—they were angrier, and Barren had to wonder if they were out for revenge.
“Between the king’s men and the sea-rats, we won’t get no peace,” the old man behind the bar spat. He rested a thick arm on the bar top. Barren could feel his disgusted stare.
The king’s men were privateers whose aggressive campaign against pirates also affected the people of the Orient. They’d taken to occupying islands frequented by pirates, but they’d also been demanding and crass. Rumors abounded that the Privateers often ordered free shelter and food, citing their work against piracy as reason enough for special treatment. The inhabitants of these islands were poor and could not afford to accommodate so many; however, refusal resulted in death.
The privateers’ actions were clearly far worse than any pirate’s, but they acted under the king’s law, and so their evil went unpunished. For now.
Boots tapped steadily on the wooden floor, and a man came to stand beside Barren’s table. Some privateers preferred not to identify the island they were associated with to prevent possible backlash from pirates, but this man wore a red sash around his waist—a Maris Privateer. He was intimidating and tall, and his weapons were visible—guns in holsters over his chest, a sword at his side, a knife at his belt. He approached Barren in a way that suggested he grossly underestimated the so-called sea-rat.
“Sea-rats aren’t welcome here,” said the voice. “You best leave.” The chatter in the pub quieted at the sound of his voice.
Barren did not bother to look at the man as he spoke. “I’m quite comfortable here, thank you.” He took a swallow of ale.
There was a pause and the man leaned forward. “Perhaps you didn’t hear me—leave.”
Barren laughed quietly and then turned to meet the man’s gaze. The privateer’s eyes widened with recognition, but before he could speak, Barren moved. His head crashed into the privateer’s, sending him backward. He fell like a board. There was silence. Barren pulled his hood back and then stood, draining the remainder of his ale. He slammed the tankard on the table and stared out at the crowd, waiting. The rest of the man’s crew stumbled to their feet, drawing their blades.
Barren smirked, and then extended his arms, welcoming their fight. A privateer charged forward brandishing knives. Barren drew his blade at the last second and shifted. The privateer stumbled forward, vulnerable, and Barren brought his sword down upon the man’s hands. He screamed, dropped his weapons, and then went silent as Barren’s blade screwed his stomach.
Barren pulled his weapon free before the first man fell, ramming the hilt of the sword into another privateer’s face. The man stumbled back, blood gushing from his nose, and Barren ran his blade across his chest. He continued taking down one privateer after the other, but the more men he fought, the more men joined in the fight.
Barren almost didn’t notice the heavy rope coiling around his neck until the moment it began to tighten. He stumbled backward, hitting the ground hard, and his blade flew from his hand.
“Raise him high, boys!” One of the privateers yelled, and the room filled with a chorus of answering cheers. Barren stumbled as he was jerked to his feet once more, the noose still around his neck. The privateers tossed the other end of the rope around a rafter, and they pulled. The rope cut into his neck until he could hardly draw air into his lungs. Beneath him the king’s men hollered and bellowed in triumph.
He clawed furiously at the noose around his neck, trying to pull it away. Air escaped from his mouth in a haggard symphony. His heart pounded in his chest as panic left him. It was then that the door burst open, and Barren’s crew filled the space. He wasn’t surprised to see the former Lady Larkin Lee leading them. She was fierce—her skin was touched by the sun, and a fire colored her cheeks. He found it strange that someone who avoided doling out death would crave a fight as much as she—yet she did, and she fought as well as any of them, some days even better.
His quartermaster, Leaf, followed closely behind, wielding a blade. He fought with precision and a grace found only in the most skilled Elfin warriors. Behind him, Sam’s large figure filled the doorway. Some of the privateers turned to run from him, but Sam was faster, and he took them down quickly. Seamus and Slay fought beside the others—Seamus with his chains and Slay with his cutlass.
With the privateers distracted, Barren suddenly found himself falling to the floor, the rope loosening its hold on his neck. He gasped for breath and coughed, tears filling his eyes. He rolled to his knees, reaching for a stray blade, and stood. Larkin’s eyes found him—they were ablaze. Everything about her was fire.
“Down!” she commanded, and he obeyed, hitting the floor again. Larkin swung her sword, and it clashed with the sword of a privateer who had snuck up behind Barren. As the privateer stumbled back, Barren twisted and dealt the lethal blow.
“You were supposed to stay on the ship!” Barren said, his voice cracked and his throat hurt.
“And if I had, you’d be dead!” she replied.
“I had this situation under control!”
A bottle flew past his head and shattered against the wall behind him.
“Completely under control,” she said and then she practically danced as she moved forward fearlessly into the fight.
There was the sound of more breaking glass, and then a fire erupted, separating Barren from Larkin. On the other side of the flames, she continued to fight.
“Larkin!” Barren growled. This was a perfect example of why she shouldn’t be here. There were only two ways out of the pub from where she was now annexed—through the bartender’s side entrance or the front door, both on the other side of the fire.
Some of the privateers fueled the fire by throwing full bottles of whiskey, rum and absinthe into the flames. The glass exploded and the blaze roared, the flames licked the ceiling. Barren could barely see Larkin through the inferno.
He searched the area for a way to reach her. Climbing onto a table close to the fire, he could feel the flames scorch his skin and sweat beaded off his face. He made a running start and then jumped over the rising flames. As he landed, he took a privateers down who had been caught on the other side.
“Barren!” Leaf called. “We have to get out of here!”
“Go! We’ll meet you on the ship!” he called back.
The fire popped and hissed, as if to challenge Barren’s promise. Larkin cried out, and Barren’s attention was again focused only on her. Momentarily distracted by the fire, she’d taken a blow to the arm. She was quick to recover, however, and her attacker soon found her blade in his own arm. Barren hurried forward, finishing him.
“Let’s go!” he said and turned back toward the flames that separated them from the exit. He’d made it over them once; they could do it again.
Before they had a chance to move, there was a loud cracking sound and the ceiling caved in, sending sparks and smoke into the air. Barren pushed Larkin out of the way, his body covering hers as they fell hard to the floor. Quickly, he got to his feet and pulled her with him. “Come on!” He hurried to the back of the pub, searching for an exit—but there was no way out.
He thought for a moment and then withdrew a flask from his coat. He tore a piece of his shirt free and stuffed it into the opening.
“This place is already burning to the ground…do you really think an explosion is the best idea?”
“If it gets us out of here, yes!”
He put the fabric to the fire and threw the flask. “Down!” Barren and Larkin hit the ground. He covered her head with his hands, pulling her close to his chest as the flask exploded. Pieces of the wall splintered, and the opening that remained was big enough for Barren to kick through. He rushed at it, and burst through the wall. Larkin followed, stumbling out of the fire and smoke.
Outside, the night was cool but chaotic. Shouts and screams filled the air, people crying that pirates had attacked. In this pause, Barren turned to face Larkin, his eyes immediately focused on the blood running down her arm. She followed his gaze, and then turned so that the wound was hidden from him. Barren narrowed his eyes. He untied the sash from around his waist and reached for her arm, wrapping the cloth around the wound tightly. “Better that you don’t bleed to death in the name of maintaining your pride,” he said.
The sound of firing cannons caught his attention. He looked toward the port. His crew would be there now, attempting to set sail and make some distance from the shore. He exchanged a glance with Larkin, and then the two broke into a run toward the shore. The dirt rose up beneath their feet as they hurried along. Around them, cries of terror echoed, and now and then the word pirate tore the air like a curse. Barren wondered why no one decried the privateers for their thievery. He didn’t have time to worry about who the natives blamed for their misfortune. He and Larkin now stood at the edge of a thin cliff, which loomed over the port like a dark cloud. The ships below them lined up almost perfectly beneath the cliff. From here, they could look down and see men working furiously on board the privateers’ ships as they sought to move away from the shore and pursue Barren’s ship, which had not yet made enough distance from shore.
Barren felt Larkin’s eyes on him, and when he met her gaze, he knew exactly what she was about to do. He reached for her, but she jumped. He watched her. She fell like a feather, and landed lightly on one of the masts below—it was her lithe frame and her Elfin blood that made her so nimble. The commotion below meant that she remained undetected. Barren had no choice but to follow her lead.
He landed on one of the yardarms above her, and they exchanged a glance. Barren worked to remove a small powder flask. This one he’d filled with broken glass and pieces of sharp metal. He tore a part of his shirt, stuffed it into the hole, and lit the fabric. He threw it—aiming for a nearby privateer ship. The effect was immediate. The power flask exploded. There were terrifying screams as men found themselves filled with shrapnel. The sails of the ship caught fire and were consumed quickly. Those who were still alive retreated into the sea, but in the darkness, they did not resurface. Barren felt Larkin’s disapproving eyes on him. She drew her blade—it flashed like the silver moon in the sky. Then she let herself fall to the deck below. It was like she was teasing him—seeing how far he’d go at her side. But he would go. He would follow her anywhere.
When she landed, she began her fight. Barren watched her for a moment, mesmerized by the way she moved. She’d been trained since her childhood to fight with a blade—something Barren had not known when he’d met her. He’d been too distracted by her beauty to notice the signs—the confidence. He knew many a man had fallen prey to her blade as a result of the same distraction. If he’d been in the thick of a fight when he first set eyes upon her, he’d have died instantly.
He shook his head, clearing the haze, and followed her example, immersing himself in the fray. The clank of metal sounded, and it was two against many. They fought together, each building on the other’s strengths and covering for weaknesses. Larkin was smaller but she moved faster. Barren was stronger but he hit harder.
Cannons rocked the ship, and Barren and Larkin swayed. His ship had turned back; his crew had begun to attack. There were shouts from the privateers, who scrambled below deck to defend their ship. Barren twisted as he fought to get a look at his ship. It wasn’t far enough out to sea to avoid damage. His crew couldn’t afford to become immobile so close to a nest of privateers.
He noticed the barrels of gunpowder that sat near the captain’s quarters—an exposed weapon, a weakness. Barren whistled—it was a command. He took off, hurrying for the barrels. His blade swept along, cutting down privateers as he went, until he came face to face with a flintlock pistol. He stared straight into the barrel and watched as a slow, gritty smile spread over the face behind the gun.
As the privateer cocked the pistol to ignite the spark, Barren ducked, charging at the man with his blade and a small knife. He ran the man through, and as he fell, the blast from the pistol sounded, and smoke from the gun clouded Barren’s vision. He stumbled over the fallen privateer toward the barrels, ramming his blood-covered blade through the wood over and over until a solid stream of gun powered poured from the barrel and spilled on the ground. Satisfied, he turned and hurried toward Larkin. He fought to reach her, and once he did, he wrapped his hand tightly around her waist and they retreated, tumbling over the edge of the ship. Just as they fell overboard, a blazing arrow rushed past and landed in the gunpowder. The blast was loud, and debris rained down around them as they swam for the safety of their own ship.
“You’re both thoughtless,” Leaf said as they boarded. Behind them, the burning remains of the privateer ships groaned as the water consumed them. “And you’re both arrogant!”
“Tell us how you really feel,” Barren said, standing. He helped Larkin to her feet. Their clothes were soaked and water dripped off of them.
“Change before you develop a fever!” Leaf commanded. It was a well-known fact that Leaf did not like to treat colds.
Larkin moved to obey, but Barren reached for her. “Don’t think you’ve escaped scrutiny,” he said, eyeing the wound on her arm.
She rolled her eyes. “It wouldn’t be a normal day without a lecture.”
“He’s just mad because you out fought ‘im!” Slay called from the crow’s nest.
Barren made his way to his cabin and slammed his door. This wasn’t a competition, it was about staying safe. There were people who wanted to hurt Larkin—people who would hurt her simply to get back at him. She needed to be more careful. Instead, she ran headfirst into danger, and his crew seemed to have a good time encouraging it, even going so far as to follow her lead. He was going to have to talk to all of them.
He changed into dry clothes and left his cabin. He found Leaf finishing up a stitch on Larkin’s arm. He cringed when he saw the blood—old and new, running down her arm.
Leaf cut the thread and sopped up the blood with a clean cloth. After smearing a salve on the wound, he wrapped and bandaged it.
“You’ll be sore, but as long as you don’t roughhouse, you’ll be fine.”
He glared at Barren, as if warning him. Barren moved to follow Larkin as she stood and walked away from him, probably trying to avoid the lecture she believed was coming. Before Barren could take a step in her direction, Leaf reached for Barren’s neck. Barren winced—he’d been able to ignore the pain until now. A red wound circled his neck from where the rope had been.
“The noose was never a good look for you,” Leaf said. “You’re lucky Larkin was so incessant in her need to follow you.” Barren guessed he couldn’t really argue with that. Leaf continued, “She is very skilled. It should ease your mind.” It didn’t ease his mind. He’d seen the most skilled pirates go down in a fight. His father was the best example.
Barren shook his head, preparing to argue with his friend.
“You don’t have to protect her, Barren,” Leaf added quietly.
But he wanted to. Ironic considering he’d been so eager to show her the realities of this world, to prove to her that there were two sides to every story. Now he wanted to protect her from those truths.
“Didn’t you feel the need to protect Fira?” Barren asked. He noticed Leaf’s jaw tighten. Perhaps it was unfair of Barren to bring up Leaf’s dead love, especially after all the Elf had suffered after her murder. Barren knew very little about Fira, but he knew no matter what, Leaf would have protected her.
“I did,” the Elf replied, nodding and walking away.
Barren’s chest felt tight with regret. He should not have dredged up painful memories for Leaf. The Elf had been through enough. He let out a breath and turned to find Larkin.
She was leaning against the rail, looking down at the water toward the back of the ship. As he approached, she turned.
“You should be more careful, it’s too dangerous, you could have died,” she said. “See? I already know what you’re going to say. Spare me the lecture.”
“That’s not what I was going to say,” he said.
“You should have stayed on the ship,” she said. “You never listen to me. Am I hitting the mark yet?”
“It’s true that you never listen to me,” he said.
“Leaf wanted me to listen to you this time.” Larkin took a deep breath before going on. Barren lifted a brow, waiting. “He said maybe it’d teach you a lesson. To not go at things alone.”
He chuckled, but as she spoke, he noticed her eyes focused on his chest. He didn’t have to look to know what she was staring at—the myriad of scars that covered his skin. She’d traced those scars and asked questions he’d answered, no matter how difficult. Those questions hadn’t come in a while, and he was glad for it—they weren’t a part of the future he wanted with her.
After a moment, he reached forward, his fingers brushing her chin and forcing her eyes to his. “The fears you have for me are the same fears I have for you,” he said quietly. He dropped his hand to her upper arm, squeezing gently
“The cut’s minor,” she said. “I’ll be more careful next time.”
“Next time? You plan to do this again?”
“Yes.” She smirked at him.
He pulled her closer. “I don’t know what to do with you,” he admitted, and ran his lips along her jaw. She shivered beneath his touch but laughed.
“It doesn’t seem that way,” she replied.
He smiled against her skin, and moved his lips closer to hers.
“I said no roughhousing!” Leaf called from behind them.
Barren groaned. He pulled away from Larkin, but only fractionally. She laughed, but a blush touched her cheeks. Leaf took delight in embarrassing them, even knowing that Barren and Larkin had not made love. Barren had promised Larkin that things would progress slowly between them.
“Come,” he said, taking her hands. “We’ll go where there’s privacy.”
He pulled her with him, and she followed—but Slay’s voice reached them from the crow’s nest.
“Before you go—you might wanna take a look north.”
Barren sighed, rolling his eyes. “Slay, I’m not in the mood—”
But as he turned, he saw ghost-like sails on the horizon. He moved closer to the edge of the ship, and Leaf joined him. The vessel moved with a familiar gait, cutting the waves with a precision Barren only found true of the pirates of Silver Crest.
“He’s one of our own,” said Leaf.
“Who?” Barren asked.
About the Author
My name is Ashley. I am vegan, I like tea, and I am a writer. My favorite Fandoms are the Lord of the Rings and Sherlock. I like purple hair, makeup, and jewelry. I like words. I like to talk about my books. I like to talk in general.
I have a twin brother. I am a Gates Millennium Scholar (now Alumni). I have a Bachelor’s in English Writing and an MLIS. I have been to Ireland, Peru, Italy, London, and France. I like to travel. I love Disney movies. I love Pride and Prejudice (1995 version, you can’t go back!).
My boyfriend looks like Aladdin. He has seriously uttered the words, “I’m Aladdin, you have to trust me,” and other sweet things cause he’s a sweetie pie.
I write unconventional fiction.
I can’t wait for you all to read this book! She has totally created a story that left me guessing every step of the way with characters that you know and love from the first book!
Thanks for stopping by to check out this first look inside the book!
Have a great day and Happy Reading