Cannibal Camellia by Hartley Hightower

1037

Angel Pirate Book 1

It is a treacherous time and place to be a young woman at sea, especially one of such uncommon spirit and beauty as Camellia. When a chance encounter reveals an untapped ferocity within, her sheltered life aboard her father's humble merchant's vessel is forever altered. As she is charged with the care of a handsome and mysterious young prisoner, her thirst for knowledge propels her in her first unsteady steps towards womanhood. But who she is and what she is capable of are not truly tested until she meets the prisoner’s father, the charming and dangerous “king of pirates”.

In Book One of the Angel Pirate series, the conflicts of love and loyalty, passion and fear launch Camellia on a journey that will take her far beyond anything she's known, towards the life and legend of her deepest desires.

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Excerpt from Cannibal Camellia © Copyright 2024 Hartley Hightower

Chapter 6

Camellia sat beside Augustín on the frayed bunk pallet she had found for him. He had carefully folded the shabby but clean blanket at the foot of the bed to his left. The lumpy little pillow was on her right. Filtered sunlight fell across his face as she studied him carefully.

“Should I hold still?” he asked.

“It doesn’t matter too much. In fact, will you move your head side to side a couple times?”
“Like this?”
“Yes, thank you. And then look toward me.” She began sketching. She was doing this first draft in pencil, with the intention of adding charcoal shading or perhaps doing a whole separate drawing in charcoal. She was still getting used to the new tool, but was excited about all she could do with it. She looked from her sketchbook to Augustín’s face and back again.

She was eager to capture him on the page and glad to have something to do with her eyes other than gawk. But sitting so close to him was making her nervous. And his gaze, though gentle, was continuously upon her. “How old are you, Augustín?”
“Twenty-three. How old are you?” “Nineteen. Only four years younger.”
“It’s a long four years from nineteen to twenty-three.”

“I suppose I shall have to take your word for it.” Camellia frowned. She knew that it wasn’t uncommon for people four years apart to like each other. To fall in love. Oftentimes the husband was far older than the wife. Her father had once explained the tendency in terms of economics and fertility. It had made sense at the time.

“Camellia, where are we?” Augustín glanced at the largest gap in the slats.

“We are ten days east of Merchant’s Landing. The Pillars are due north.” She referenced a land formation known by all.

“Are we close to the coastline? The air doesn’t smell like it. The motion of the sea doesn’t feel like it.”

“We are not.” Her eyes were on the shape of his forehead. “Usually, we stay closer to land and dip into many ports. But Oliviere believed your father is only a couple days to the east, in the Avian isles. Papa seeks to catch up quickly, and of course the tailwind is stronger out here.”

Augustín nodded. “He would be rid of his prisoner.”

“Yes. He’s not a man to keep prisoners. He has no taste for such things. Though he was in the war with Captain Oliviere and your father, he has avoided violence ever since. He’s a peaceful man.”

“Yet he will not release me.”

“I’m afraid not. For he is also a man of honor and loyalty. If we fail to reach your father, he will turn you over to a judge. He will not sell you, despite Oliviere’s suggestion. He wouldn’t want to profit in such a way. Papa doesn’t care as much for profit as perhaps he should.”

Augustín nodded. “Clearly, he’s a good man. I’m grateful to be aboard his vessel. And to have your friendship.”

A smile lit up Camellia’s face. “I’m sorry for your circumstances, but I’m glad you’re here.” She began to study his nose. “You have a very nice face. Perhaps you are aware.”

“Thank you, Camellia. A name fit for a beauty such as yourself.” There was a small smile on Augustín’s lips.

She flushed. “Thank you. It was my mother’s favorite flower.” “‘Was’?”
“She died in childbirth when I was small.” “I’m sorry. It’s all too common.”
“It’s very dangerous to be with child, is it not?”

Augustín tilted his head. “Sadly yes. It’s rather better with a midwife to assist.”

Camellia nodded. “It is so. Mama had a midwife, but still.” She stopped sketching for a moment, considering her embarrassing uncertainties. She had been wondering continuously if she could be with child from what the soldiers had done. She looked back at Augustín’s calm gaze. He seemed so open. He had said she could ask him anything. “That man died. One of the ones who sought to force me. The one that met my dagger.”

He studied her, nodding. “It is just. He crossed the wrong pirate.”

She scoffed, shaking her head. “I’m no pirate. I’m only a merchant’s daughter.”

“As you say, miss. I say only what I see.” He fell quiet, still watching her.

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