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  • Writer's pictureGrace A. Johnson

Bound and Determined Sneak Peek #3

On August 15th, I shared that I was 71,000 words through with Bound and Determined and gave a peek into the more spiritual side of the story thus far.

Well, it's been quite some time since that last sneak peek, and I know y'all have been looking forward to another one, and this time, I have something ever more fun to share!

Have you ever wondered what transpired when Keaton and Rina first met? I know I have, so when I began Bound and Determined, I started with a prologue, and it in was two different scenes. One of those was Keaton's first moments upon the Rina.

Of course, not everything makes the cut, and since my prologue for Prisoner at Heart wasn't entirely satisfactory, I knew that I had to take extra special care with BAD's prologue.

So I cut out that scene.

I'm not actually upset about that, because it truly is so much better without it, but it was a hilarious--and momentous--scene that I knew I had to share.

So, without further ado, read the deleted prologue scene of Bound and Determined! (Note: the following is in Keaton's POV.)

Great Yarmouth, England

March 1675

“C’mon, Reagan. We ‘aven’t got all day,” another filthy fellow squawked from his perch, arms flapping like a seagull. He leaned over the boat’s railing, appearing to be nothing more than a small, meaningless speck from this distance. A small, meaningless speck floating upon the large, bottomless ocean. Exactly where I would be in a matter of minutes if I let my uncle and the tall man before me drag me upon this large, intimidating boat.

If it were up to me—and it never was, unfortunately—I would be at home. Mum would be out in the garden, bent over her flowers. Father would be in his shop, repairing a customer’s shoe. Christabel would be running through the meadow with her friends.

But no. I was miles away from Cambridge, in the care of my one remaining relative—who just so happened to be a thieving, murderous pirate who spoke very little English—and about to be inducted into a crew of said pirates.

If it were up to me, I’d be dead too.

The boat rocked in the waves, threatening to pull loose from her anchor and drift to shore. If only it would. It could smash into the rocks and become nothing more than splinters of wood washed away by the tide.

But then I would be without shelter and transportation. Which would leave me with nothing but several shirts, a pair of breeches, and an uncle who smelled worse than a skunk. Perhaps I should be more aware of what I wished for.

A heavy hand pressed against my shoulder, shoving me forward with barely enough force to nudge my arm. I glanced toward my uncle, lifting a brow in question. The older man frowned, quirking his head in the direction of the fellow already several feet ahead of us, pushing a small rowboat into the rushing waves of the deep ocean.

Did I really have to go?

“Well, ye two be comin’ or not, mates?” The fellow called out, mouth curved in a boyish grin that made him look younger than I was instead of nearly five years older and just as many inches taller.

Uncle Reagan gave me that look of his—the one I suspected was a family trait, because there was something in the set of his jaw and in the dark green of his irises that reminded me of Mum. “Go, lad,” he said, his accent so thick I could hardly make out the words. “Time.” He moved a finger back and forth like the pendulum of a clock.

Apparently it was illegal for the pirate boat to simply be anchored within a mile of England. Great. Just great. Before long, my face would be plastered on the side of every building between here and India. Before long, merely my name would strike fear into every man’s heart. Before long, I would smell just like my uncle.

Exactly what I had always wished for. You know, life-long aspiration and all that. An aspiration from which I had no escape. Trust me, I had been through every possible route—back to Cambridge, into Scotland, anywhere—and at only ten and six, all but an indentured servant to my uncle, I had nowhere to go. But out to sea.

I let Uncle Reagan drag me across the grassy beach, through the sand, to where the murky turquoise waves lapped at the shore. Not a soul was in sight so early in the morning, on the outskirts of this small coastal town. It was probably the only empty port in England. Ah, but that hadn’t stopped Captain Blackstone. Nay, the captain persevered. Even when his crew members dragged their hapless nephews on board.

‘Twas a crying shame the captain didn’t dislike hapless nephews.

A wave licked at my boots, frigid water mixing with grainy sand and both slipping through the holes in my soles and covering my feet in salty mud. I took a step back and kicked the offending gunk out of my shoes. I also managed to lose my balance as I wobbled on one foot on slick grass and more of that grainy sand, and fell back-first behind me into the rowboat. My back slammed against the hard wood of the small bench, every bone that made up my spine keenly felt by the pain that coursed around them. Then my head went back and my feet went up and next thing I knew, the smiling fellow was bending over me and holding his side as he laughed so hard I thought he’d burst, and Uncle Reagan was glaring at me as though I had purposefully fallen so agonizingly—not to mention embarrassingly—into the boat.

I lifted my head, shoved myself up and met first the fellow—I really needed a name for him, didn’t I?—and his grin, then matched Uncle Reagan’s glare with a proper English glower. Uncle Reagan’s eyebrows drew in closer together, the bushy brown worm-like things nearly touching as the groves in his forehead deepened. So I flashed a smile, minus the large amount of sarcasm I felt, and watched his expression mellow out.

“Onward, crew!” I declared, hoping to deter the entire nation from staring at me all day.

It didn’t work.

The fellow sputtered, choked on his tongue, coughed up his lungs before he straightened and extended his hand. “Elliot Fulton, at yer service, mate,” he said, voice still trembling, but not enough that I couldn’t detect his rough, lower-class southern twang. From the Weymouth area, perhaps?

I took his hand, letting him jerk me up and settle me back on my feet. Then I gave him a hearty shake, feeling of every callus on his palm and fingers, as well as smudges of gun powder and sticky pitch. He’d apparently been at this pirating thing quite awhile. Or else hadn’t had a bath since 1660.

Come to think of it, maybe he had had a bath, because he didn’t smell half as bad as my uncle.

“Keaton Clarke. What say you we traverse on, eh? The longer we stand and jaw, the sooner the navy finds us.” Or some such horrendous thing like that, which wouldn’t be altogether too unpleasant, aside from the fact I couldn’t let Uncle Reagan hang without Mum’s ghost coming up from the grave to hack off my head.

Elliot chuckled—this time much shorter and with less spittle and sputtering. “This nephew o’ yers here’s got some brains, Reagan. And some kinda vocubalary, I tell ye!” He shook his head, clucking his tongue—which Mum would’ve done had she heard him mispronounce vocabulary. “’Traverse on.’ I like that.” With an arm extended and finger pointed, “Let us ‘traverse on,’ men!”

Whilst he enjoyed his outrageous display of theatrics, I turned toward Uncle to see his shrug. Apparently the present actions of Mr. Elliot Fulton were not uncommon. Which could mean that either it wasn’t unusual for the sea to rob a man of his sanity or that this fellow was just plain...outlandish.

At least I wouldn’t be bored to death.

Elliot got one final moment to his posing self before yet another call rang out from the pirate boat a few yards away. This one was decidedly sharp and undeniably angry. “Elliot Fulton and Reagan MacAuley, you two scallywags get your blasted behinds in that boat and on my ship! Or else I’ll leave you here with stolen goods on your hands and let the navy pick at you like a flock of hungry vultures! Now!”

I winced, and I wasn’t even the one being scolded by the captain and threatened with abandonment and likely death.

Apparently the captain’s outrageous threats were also common, for Uncle Reagan and Elliot paid their captain little to no heed and moved slower than snails in three feet of snow as they settled into the rowboat.

I followed after them, determined not to be left behind—and with stolen goods. I, however, got my blasted behind into that boat much quicker than they did.

I didn’t want to make the captain suddenly dislike hapless nephews, now did I?

But I just so happened to be the last one in, and though that didn’t make me a rotten egg, it did mean I had to get back out and push four hundred pounds of man and wood into the rushing—and freezing—water. Great.

By the time I’d jumped back into the rowboat, I was wet up to my waist and I couldn’t feel my toes. My breath was coming in short gasps, my head spinning. I chanced a glance down at the murky ocean beneath me and a wave of nausea nearly took my meager breakfast under. That was it. I was not going near water again.

Wait. Never mind that. I was going to live on a pirate boat.

I shut my eyes and focused on the rhythmic sound of the oars dipping in and pulling out. In, out. Splash. In, out. Splash.

One, two. Three. One, two. Three. I kick, arms cutting through the water and shoving it away. I don’t have much time. I concentrate on forward. On where I need to go. On the beats between each thrust of my legs and on the splatter of water every time my hand breaks through the lake’s surface.

“Clarke? I say, Clarke. You alive?”

The voice called out to me, a hand breaking through the picture in my mind. No, not a picture. A memory. A moment. Reality.

I shoved my eyes open, met Elliot’s concerned glare. We had stopped. I looked up, at the large hunk of wood before me. Behind me, at Uncle’s frown. To my right, at the still water.

I was here. Off the shore of Great Yarmouth. I didn’t have to swim any farther.

She was already gone.

I shook off the feeling, the sense of helplessness that hadn’t left me for nearly a year. Feeling returned to my legs—legs that weren’t stiff as a lump of lead—and to the arms that had no need to move except to get me out of this boat.

I couldn’t get out of here soon enough.

But I did. And I might as well have been standing upon a spoonful of Mum’s peach preserves, because I couldn’t stand up straight for more than a second without wobbling back and forth and to the side. I took one step forward on the hard deck and nearly fell. Again.

I caught myself, one hand on the surface of the roiling deck. Then I straightened and looked to find Elliot smirking. Again.

I’d better find something else to look at before Elliot Fulton didn’t have any teeth left to flash at me.

My gaze took in the boat. The tattered grey sails in need of new canvas. The pitch-covered deck on which several fellows took a caulk. The coils of rope that stretched up and out to hold sails in place on the thick masts. The smooth wood of the railing my hand rested on.

Cedar. And not too old as well. This boat had to be—I squinted, looked around once again—no more than four years old. The metal latches to the hatches had only just begun to rust. The wood was still light and the hull fairly clean.

A throat cleared beyond my thoughts. I jerked my head up to see a shadow of a figure, shaded by the glow of the midday sun. A tricorn tipped low over his face, hiding his features, his patch, and his scars. A thick waistcoat covered what was likely an array of weapons and years of hard-earned muscle. The proud stance—feet set apart, one hip popped out, arms folded, head cocked—said more than the gleam of five rings on one hand and two in each ear and multiple necklaces draped around his neck.

“Nice boat you have here, Captain.” I couldn’t keep the bite out of my tone. I didn’t want to be here—out at sea in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of stinky, lawless creatures.

And the captain might as well know it now.

“I know how you feel,” Captain Blackstone said, his voice low and tone gentle, almost soft as Mum’s. I wasn’t sure what he meant—that he didn’t want to be out at sea either or something more.

Something that I was sure no one would know. Who could but me?

“And she’s a ship, mate.” Captain Blackstone turned aside, perhaps sensing my coldness or else tiring already of staring at what I doubted was a yielding expression. The shadows surrounding him shifted, accentuating curved features—high cheekbones, a crooked nose, full mouth—and a curved figure—certainly not in the right places. Nay, this fellow—or was he?—didn’t look any more like one than he sounded, and by the grin on her face, she knew it.

“El, show Mr. Clarke below deck. And, Reagan, I need you to have a long discussion with Mr. Goldwell. I’m afraid I have long since tired of his mutinous thoughts.” Captain Blackstone waved my uncle away, and the normally grim man fairly skipped away with the inklings of a smile on his lips.

Elliot shifted beside me, reminding me of his presence, and draped an arm around my shoulders.

But before he dragged me down below, where things probably smelled even worse, the captain stopped him with a lifted hand. “Keaton,” she began, all gruff captain-ness fading from her voice and giving way to the lilt of a polished aristocrat, “once you are settled, I hope that you’ll join me for dinner. I’m need of some company, and I believe you shall do.”

Then the captain marched off, head held high, her tricorn blocking the rays of the sun and revealing a stark white line that curved when her lips tugged up into what appeared to be a sorrowful smile.

Great. And I had thought things couldn’t get any worse. Seemed the captain didn’t dislike hapless nephews.

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