Today we welcome Shira Anthony with book 3 of the Mermen of Ea series,
Running With The Wind
Sequel to Into the WindWith the final confrontation between the island and mainland Ea factions looming, Taren and Ian sail with Odhrán to investigate a lost colony of merfolk in the Eastern Lands. Upon their arrival, the King of Astenya welcomes them as friends. Odhrán, however, isn’t so quick to trust the descendent of the man who held him prisoner for nearly a decade, especially now that he has someone to cherish and protect—the mysterious winged boy he rescued from the depths.
Armed with the knowledge he believes will save the Ea, Taren returns to the mainland. With Ian at his side, Taren convinces Vurin that their people must unite with their island brethren before it’s too late. When Seria and his men attack, Taren must call upon the ancient power of the rune stone to protect his comrades. But using stone’s immeasurable power commands a hefty price—and Ian fears that price is Taren’s life.
THE men who dragged Taren from the ship’s hold shoved him so hard into the captain’s quarters that he nearly fell face-first on the floor. His hands were tied behind his back. He’d been given water, although his throat was still parched. His belly growled. How long had it been since he’d awoken on the deck of the ship? He’d been locked away since he’d regained consciousness. He feared for the Sea Witch and her crew more than for his own safety. He prayed his shipmates had made it through the tempest unharmed.
In spite of his pathetic state, the ship and the men who manned her felt oddly familiar to Taren. He knew he hadn’t met them before, of course, but the sensation was strong. Regardless, the sense of familiarity had not improved the conditions in which he’d been kept since his capture. He felt relieved to be freed from the darkness of the ship’s hold, if only temporarily.
Through the large windows at the back of the room, Taren could see it was nighttime. He’d lost track of the days in the darkness. A nearly full moon illuminated the room, enabling Taren to make out a desk of carved wood, a simple table covered with maps, and several chairs. In the corner of the room was a large bed, also carved. The quarters were spartan, immaculate, and revealed nothing about their occupant.
“Leave us. And unbind him.” By the dim light, Taren struggled to make out the features of the man to whom the rough, commanding voice belonged.
“But Captain,” one of Taren’s captors protested. “The Council will want to know why he’s—” “Leave us, Seria,” the captain snapped with obvious irritation. “The Council has no jurisdiction here. My men and I can handle him without your help.”
“As you wish.” From the tone of his voice, Taren judged the man none too pleased to be dismissed.
The leather strap around his wrists removed, Taren brought his numb hands together and massaged them as the men left. “Do not think that you can run,” the captain warned, perhaps sensing Taren’s thoughts. “My men are stationed outside the door, and I am more than capable of killing you without their help.”
The captain drew closer, and Taren could make out his features at last. What he saw surprised him. He had thought the man far older, when in fact he appeared to be only a few years Taren’s senior. The same age, perhaps, as Bastian, although his body was far broader and he stood even taller than Taren himself. Taren could not help but marvel at the bright green of the man’s eyes and the handsome edge of his strong jaw. For a moment he wondered if he’d seen Ian before. There was something familiar in the intensity of his gaze, something that stirred not only Taren’s loins but also his heart.
Fool! He holds the power to kill you, and yet all you can do is admire his appearance? Bastian was right. You’re a wanton, insatiable creature.
“What is your name, man, and how do you come to be here?” the captain demanded, his expression hard with impatience.
“I am Taren. Taren Laxley. I know not how I came to be here.” He still remembered nothing after he had lashed the rope about Fiall’s waist.
The edge of the captain’s mouth turned upward in a sneer. “Taren?”
Taren said nothing but met the other man’s gaze and held it, unafraid.
“I am Ian Dunaidh, captain of the Phantom.” He spoke the words with little emotion, but Taren thought he saw a flash of pride in Ian’s eyes.
Ian Dunaidh? Again that name. Taren struggled to remember where he’d heard it before. Then it came back to him—the conversation he’d had with Bastian, not long before Taren had been lost at sea. He remembered the hatred in Bastian’s eyes when he’d spoken of Ian. What had Bastian said? Rider and this man had been schoolboys together, but Ian had betrayed Rider or perhaps broken his heart? But how could that be? Rider was a man well into his forties, but this man appeared far younger. Still, knowing they were bitter rivals, Taren became even more determined to keep secret his connection to the Witch and her crew.
“Where did you come from?” Ian asked when Taren did not speak.
“I… I don’t know.” Taren knew Ian wouldn’t believe it. He didn’t care. He would not endanger the crew of the Sea Witch, even if it meant his life.
Ian laughed. “You lie.”
The ship lurched with a strong gust of wind and Taren, weakened from lack of food and thirst, stumbled back against the bulkhead and slipped down. Ian moved to steady Taren, pulling him up with a strong arm around Taren’s waist. This close, Taren could smell the captain’s musk and feel his breath upon his cheek. He responded to the rough contact in spite of himself, his cock filling and pressing against Ian’s muscled thigh.
Their eyes met. Ian appeared momentarily at a loss, Taren’s touch seeming to burn him. Taren knew he should attempt to free himself from Ian’s grasp, but—to his shame and dismay—he didn’t want the contact to end.
Ian turned to Taren and parted his lips but seemed unable to speak.
Without thinking, Taren leaned into Ian until their mouths touched. For an instant Ian seemed to hesitate, then took Taren’s lips with obvious hunger, kissing Taren hard as he probed the warmth of Taren’s mouth with his tongue. Ian’s breaths came in stutters and Taren moaned. His tongue danced around Ian’s with equal fervor. Gods, how he wanted this man!
When Ian finally pulled away, Taren was left gasping for breath, dizzy. Even Bastian had not aroused him thus. Ian seemed to hold some power over him that he was incapable of fighting. He couldn’t understand it—Ian Dunaidh was his captor and Rider’s enemy. Even so, Taren felt naked before him. The remnants of his tattered clothes did nothing to cover his body from Ian’s piercing gaze. He also felt a sudden pang of guilt at the thought of Rider and Bastian. Not that they’d ever spoken of what might happen if Taren stayed with them after his three years of service were complete, but didn’t he owe them his body, for at least that long?
Ian too appeared taken aback by what had transpired between them. His face appeared flushed, his brow dotted with sweat. “What…?” He stepped backward, leaving Taren barely able to stand but for the cabin wall supporting him.
“Who are you?” This time Ian’s voice was softer, any anger seemingly replaced by something approaching wonder.
“I-I told you who I am.” Taren wished he sounded more confident, but Ian left him ill at ease. In spite of the venom he’d heard in Bastian’s words when he’d spoken of the Phantom’s captain, Taren wanted to tell Ian everything, if only to feel his body once more pressed against his own and taste his mouth again.
“Who were your parents?” Ian appeared to have regained his self-control. He straightened up to his full height and did not move to touch Taren again.
“I don’t know. I never knew them.” Taren touched his lips, which still felt warm from Ian’s kiss. Then Taren added, almost without thinking, “What do you care?”
Ian appeared to consider the question. “Just curious,” he said at last, his tone dismissive.
Someone knocked on the door and one of the men peered inside. “Everything all right, Captain?”
“Everything’s fine.” Ian barely looked at the man.
“Shall I return the prisoner to the hold?”
“No.” Ian did not hesitate. “He will stay here with me.”
“Sir?” The sailor appeared shocked.
“He will stay with me. Have the cabin boy prepare a bed for him. Post a guard at my door.”
“Yes, sir!” The man turned and left, sparing a frown for Taren.
“Do you intend to keep me here as your slave?” In truth, the idea of submitting to Ian held more than a little appeal for Taren, although he was far too proud to admit it.
“No.” It was not the answer Taren had expected. “You will sleep here. That is all.”
Taren felt shame to realize this answer disappointed him. On the other hand, being in the captain’s cabin might prove useful. Here, he’d have better access to the upper decks of the ship. With a little luck, he might be able to escape.
Ian narrowed his eyes as he said, “If you attempt to escape, I will lock you in the hold once more.”
Taren averted his gaze. Can he read my thoughts?
Several men entered a few moments later with a bedroll and a few extra blankets.
“Bind him. See that he’s bathed,” Ian said. “If he fights you, return him to the hold.”
“And see that he gets some food. Nothing too heavy. Gruel or soup.”
Ian nodded, then quickly left the cabin and a very surprised Taren behind.
IAN stood at the bow of the ship, focused on the water. The moon had set and taken with it the last traces of purple and red that had colored the clouds. He had been standing here for nearly an hour, lost in thought. Only now did he take heed of his surroundings.
Taren. The name was foreign to his lips. Not a name given to those of his people. And yet he’d repeated it now more times than he cared to admit. He couldn’t deny what he had sensed when they’d kissed. He is one of us. Was it possible Taren did not know? Ian had sensed no lie when he’d claimed not to know his parents, although Ian sensed deceit when Taren claimed not to know where he’d come from.
He doesn’t remember how he got here. That was also the truth. The nearest ship had been days away—they had received no reports of other vessels in the area—and if by some chance Taren had survived a shipwreck as a result of the great storm, surely there would have been debris to accompany him. The crew said he’d been found on the surface of the waves. With nothing to keep him afloat. A normal man would have perished. Much as Ian wished there were another explanation, there wasn’t. Taren was no normal man. But why had he sensed the truth of Taren’s birthright only when he’d touched him?
Ian also couldn’t deny the way his body responded to the boy, couldn’t deny that for a moment he’d been tempted to do more than kiss him. What the devil was wrong with him? All Ea were dual-natured, animal and man, but only adolescents new to their Ea form lacked self-control.Why did you kiss him? Ian stroked his hand over his lips, recalling the feel of Taren’s mouth, his taste. Like the ocean, wild and vast. Something in Taren’s kiss had stirred Ian’s other nature. Even now, Ian felt the need to dominate the boy. And yet, along with the primal hunger, there was something more—something strange and equally as wonderful as the powerful attraction. Familiarity.
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We had the opportunity to ask Shira a few questions...
Hi Shira, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
Thanks so much for hosting me! I’m so excited about the release of the last Mermen of Ea book. For those who may not already know, I’m a former opera singer (you can hear a live recording of me singing here, if you’re interested) turned lawyer and author. I work as public sector attorney doing child advocacy, and not only do I work full-time, when I’m not working I pretty much spend every waking hour writing.
What is the most satisfying thing about being a writer?
Hearing from readers who enjoy my books! Much as I write stories I myself would want to reading, it makes all the time I spend working on my books worthwhile when I hear from readers who enjoy what I write.
Do your characters ever take over your writing and make the story go somewhere you hadn’t originally planned?
More often that you’d think, yes! In fact, the Mermen of Ea Series was originally meant to be a captor/captive story with pirates. But a few chapters into the story, the main character, Taren, decided he was a merman. No joke! I had been sailing a few weeks before I got back to writing the story after working on edits for another novel and all of a sudden, I was writing pirates and mermen shifters. I’m glad I listened, because it’s been such a fun series to work on! I’ve long since learned that if my characters and my muse want to take me in a different direction from what I’ve originally planned, I listen to them.
How do you celebrate the release of a new book?
Honestly, I’m usually so busy around the time of a book release that I don’t do much celebrating. I write about three novels a year, which means that as I’m writing a new book, I’m also working on edits for books that are already under contract with my publisher. And of course, having a new book means getting the word out about it, so I’m often in the middle of a blog tour to promote the new book. When I first began writing professionally, I had no idea how much work happens after a writer finishes a book!
How did you come up with the idea for this book?
As you already know, I had an idea for a pirate novel. Adventure on the high seas and no magic in sight. But my husband and I have a 35 foot catamaran at the Carolina coast, and we saw a huge school of dolphins swim really close to the boat. We’d also just come back from the Caribbean, where we got our open water scuba certification. I began to imagine what it might be like to breathe under the water without all that equipment. The result? Mermen shifters who can take human form and live on land, or live under the water in their mer-forms.
Have you ever written naked?
LOL, no! I’ve certainly imagined a few of my characters naked, though. In fact, in the Mermen of Ea books, when a merman shifts back into human form, he is naked. Merfolk don’t wear clothing, of course. Like dolphins, they are mammals whose bodies are warm-blooded. I did have to do a little research about how dolphins mate, though, in order to write some of the sex scenes where the main characters are in shifted form. Does that count?
Sure it does!! Thanks so much!!
More about the author:
In her last incarnation, Shira was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as “Tosca,” “i Pagliacci,” and “La Traviata,” among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.
Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 36’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.
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