Description and excerpt I posted at the Literary Nymphs chat for "Cross Bones" a couple of weekends ago. Lots of other good stories in the anthology, so check it out! :D
"From a Simmer To A Burn" is a short story about Sule, a former slave who escaped from a Dutch plantation and is now the steward in a pirate crew, and Olaf, a Dutch-speaking carpenter who joins that crew more out of necessity than from a wish to plunder. Sule lives at a constant simmer of anger, and Olaf threatens to set Sule's temper alight just by being there.
In this excerpt, Sule has found Olaf in the hold the night after a successful raid on another ship. Earlier that day, Olaf's disapproval of the "We want something, we take it" philosophy had set Sule's teeth on edge, and he's ready to push things to a breaking point in order to get Olaf kicked out of the crew.
“What are you doing down here?" Sule asked, looking around quickly to determine if any of the crates had been opened. If the man was a thief, he‘d be thrown off the ship before he could blink.
“I was looking for a blanket, sir.”
“What did you do with the one you had?”
“No, sir, I was hoping to find another. It‘s… I‘m… never mind.” Olaf started to walk toward the hatch, but Sule grabbed his arm.
“What‘s the matter, are you ill? If you‘re ill, you‘ll be put off this ship straightaway.”
Olaf shook his head. “I‘m not ill, sir. I get cold at night. It‘s all right, if there are no extra blankets—”
“Shut up.” Sule made his way through the crates until he got to a trunk stowed just inside the bulkhead. He opened it and pulled out two blankets that he threw at Olaf, who caught them. “Will that be enough? Are you quite satisfied?”
“Yes, sir. Thank you.” Olaf nodded, but he didn‘t leave; he just stood there, looking at Sule and clutching the blankets.
“What? Do you need something else?”
“No.” But still he didn‘t leave.
Sule‘s anger spiraled, spinning up through his body and out the top of his head. “Then why are you still here?” He slammed the trunk shut and moved to stand right in front of Olaf. “And why do you keep staring at me? You‘ve been doing it since we raided that ship. Do I disgust you? Is piracy not to your liking? Do you think you‘re better than the rest of us?”
“No! It‘s not that. I‘m, um, you‘re....”
But now Sule was on a tear. “Then what is it? Why do you keep looking at me every time we‘re in the same part of the ship? Don‘t try to deny it, I‘ve seen you.”
“I‘m sorry, sir, I won‘t do it again.”
“You didn‘t answer my question, ox,” Sule snapped, and gave Olaf a shove, or tried to; it was like pushing against the stone face of a cliff. He snarled and shoved harder, this time causing Olaf to stumble just a bit.
“Stop it.” Olaf growled, frowning, his heavy blond brows drawn together.
Finally, a reaction. “Stop what? Stop this?” Sule asked, slapping Olaf on the shoulder, then on the chest. “This?” A kick with his instep to the side of Olaf‘s calf. “This?” A cuff to his head.
“And if I don‘t?” Sule stepped back, lifted his fists into position for a serious fight, began shifting his weight back and forth from foot to foot. It was too bad there would be no witnesses, but fighting on board would probably be enough to get the oaf expelled from the crew. It would be his word against Sule‘s.
“I don‘t want to fight you.”
“That‘s too bad,” Sule said and shot out a fist. It caught Olaf on the chin, knocking his head back but not causing nearly the impact Sule was hoping for. Before Sule could hit him again, Olaf threw the blankets aside and rushed forward, his shoulder hitting Sule in the chest, driving him backward, slamming him into the bulkhead. Sule‘s head banged against the wood, and then his body was pinned there by Olaf‘s. No room to kick, Olaf holding both of Sule‘s wrists tight against the bulkhead as well. Sule snarled and looked up to meet Olaf‘s eyes—it infuriated him that he wasn‘t quite tall enough to look directly into them. What he saw there wasn‘t anger or hate—he would have recognized those emotions in someone else‘s eyes—but he didn‘t care. He jerked his right wrist free, or tried to, but Olaf kept it pinned to the bulkhead. He pulled harder, but he could not break the grip on his wrists.
Sule knows how to fight. He likes to fight. Sometimes when he‘s on land, he‘ll make his way to the dirtiest, darkest tavern he can find and make bets with the white men drinking there that he‘ll fight all of them, one by one, and be the last man standing. He almost always wins because he‘ll do anything to win.
Olaf curled his fingers around Sule‘s left wrist. Sule swore, tried again to pull free, but Olaf just tightened his grip. “We want something, we take it,” he growled, then leaned over and licked Sule‘s arm, his tongue slipping under the cuff of Sule‘s shirt and lapping at the skin there.
Sule went still, all anger and resistance utterly wiped away by shock. Olaf‘s hand was cool against Sule‘s skin, but his tongue, moving across his own fingers and up to Sule‘s unresisting hand, was hot and wet. When that tongue slid across his palm, in between his fingers, Sule gasped, started to say, “What—“ but Olaf‘s mouth had left his hand and moved to his neck, and all he could do was drop his head back against the bulkhead and shut his eyes.