In Irons – Excerpt

Cover for In IronsIn Irons by Matthew Nadelhaft

Death and pain are constant companions in a life lived by the sword, whether on land or on sea. Love, on the other hand, is rare. So when Laulri, a hardened, meets the legendary pirate Sheliegh in a waterfront dive and offers her a drink, the last thing he expected from her was a tale demonstrating just how rare—and how dangerous—love can be. (M/F)

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The first sound to follow her introduction was the scraping of chair legs as Laulri pushed himself back a few inches. He’d heard of Sheleigh, and knew not to take her lightly. The second sound to break the silence was Baoloa’s harsh laugh.

“No way,” the younger mercenary scoffed. “You can’t be Sheleigh. Everyone knows she was captured by the Imperial Navy years ago. Word is, they tortured and raped her for weeks before the war eagle transporting her was lost to storm. Sheleigh’s dead.”

The young woman’s sapphire eyes flicked upwards under narrow, arched eyebrows. “The Imperial War Eagle Gracious Wake was not lost to storm—although all hands were indeed lost.”

Laulri could sense Baoloa looking to him for support, but he’d be damned if he’d step in front of this runaway chariot. He found something of great interest under the nail of his right forefinger while Baoloa went on unsteadily. Laulri understood the scars now, as well as the confidence that would allow a lone woman no bigger than a young lad to walk into the Spitted Toad and order a drink.

“You saying you killed the entire crew of a war eagle and escaped? Why should we believe that?”

Sheleigh—Laulri had no doubt the woman was whom she claimed to be—shrugged lightly.

“I care not.” She locked her gaze on Baoloa. “But if you insist on proof…”

Baoloa stood up a little too quickly to appear nonchalant.

“Just remembered I’m, uh, meeting a man about a job, Laulri.” He was halfway to the door before he’d finished mumbling the explanation. Laulri waited till he was gone before laughing.

“Man’s never had a job in his life I didn’t get him; think maybe he was lying?” He thought he detected the ghost of a smile on Sheleigh’s lips, so he continued. “Never did believe you were dead, myself.”

Sheleigh finished her drink. Even downing an ale she was elegant, sinister. Like her serpent, she never blinked.

“I am dead. I just keep walking.”


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