Air Pirates Excerpt #1

Zeke went into the guest room to check on Ms. Gillard. She startled a little when he entered and gave him an embarrassed smile.  “We’ll be on our way in a moment, Miss Gillard.” He shut the door behind him to give them a bit of privacy. “How are you feeling?”

“Emma, please.” She smoothed the fabric across her lap. Was it simply a nervous motion or was she self conscious about being on a ship full of strangers in her night dress? Maybe it was a bit of both. “My head is still quite sore but Mr. Lewis seems to have done a fine job. He also gave me something to ease the pain.”

“Did he end up giving you stitches?” There was a chair near the door and Zeke settled into it.

“Yes. There were four.” One of her hands started to creep toward her head and she stopped herself. “I’m sure he did a fine job, but I never want to experience that again.”
She’d had a soft life if a few stitches was that bad to her. Zeke remembered the screams of men having their limbs sawed off with nothing to dull the pain. If they were lucky, they got a few mouthfuls of whiskey, and if they were luckier, they passed out early in the operation. “I suppose you wouldn’t. Emma, I wanted to talk to you about your magic.”

She stiffened. “You won’t let it go, will you?”

“No, I won’t. And don’t lie to me and tell me you don’t know anything about it. For one, I know you felt the same thing I did when we touched. And for another thing, you look old enough that your magic should have manifested a few years ago. Although I suppose it’s possible you could be a late bloomer.”

Emma’s chin quivered just a bit. “It’s a curse. It’s the devil’s work.”

“I’m not surprised that’s what you’ve been told after what–” He almost said we did and caught himself. “happened in the war.”

“Those witches, those sorcerers, they … they killed a lot of people. The Union made a deal with the devil to defeat the South.” She looked down at her lap, her fingers clenching on the edges of her wrap.

Guilt fought a brief battle with anger. Anger won. “So we’re evil, are we? And just what did you do to get the devil’s attention?” He gave her a long look up and down.

Emma’s mouth dropped open. “I—I beg your pardon. I’ll have you know that I’m a good Christian woman and I will not tolerate such talk or such improper looks from you.”

“But you said yourself that this magic we have is evil. So to follow your logic, you must have done something to invite the devil into you.”

“Captain Donovan!” She got to her feet, still gaping. “If you continue in such a manner I will leave this ship by any means available, including jumping over the side if I must.”

They locked eyes. Zeke reminded himself that he wanted to help her, not insult her and drive her away. “My apologies. My temper got the better of me.” Emma stayed where she was, so he just went on. “Magic is a gift, not a curse. It was given to us by our creator, and it’s up to us to use it for good or evil, right or wrong, or the confused area in between.”

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