The Cutlass Trilogy by Ashley Nixon
Notorious pirate Barren Reed has one thing on his mind: Revenge against the man who killed his father. So kidnapping his enemy’s fiancé seems a perfect plan…until he actually does it.
Larkin Lee is more than a pretty face and fiancé to a powerful man. Her fierce personality is enough to make any pirate want to push her overboard.
But when the King of the Orient comes to Barren with a task—to find the Bloodstone, a powerful gem thought only to exist in legend, Barren sees another opportunity to destroy his enemy. Together, Barren, Larkin and a crew of pirates set off to find the stone, only to discover it caused the death of Barren’s own mother and Larkin’s, too. As his strongest allies turn into his greatest enemies, and the life of the girl he kidnapped becomes more important than he ever dreamed, Barren’s quest for revenge becomes a fight to save the Orient.
Barren gazed at the crowd, sifting through the faces. While he wasn’t sure who he was looking for, he could only imagine what sort of wife William would need. A woman who was slight and meek, someone who didn’t like to stand out in the crowd, or speak up—obviously—or she would not have agreed to marry William. Then again, perhaps Barren was not giving this mystery woman enough credit. Perhaps she saw William as a way out of a situation. Either way, he felt sorry for her.
Barren heard Leaf chuckle and he looked at the Elf. “I think you have no idea who you are dealing with.”
Leaf pointed toward a circle of people. Barren’s eyes shifted there, and his breath caught. What he had expected was a fragile girl—someone slight, doll-like, and silent. This girl was not so. The first thing he took in was her strength. It radiated from her like warmth from a hearth. She stood straight with her shoulders back, an observing eye upon everyone. Then he drank in the features composing her beauty. Almond-shaped eyes gleamed with emerald irises that shone like sun on the green sea. Her smile, while charming and beautiful, had something mischievous about it. She had high cheekbones, blushed with pink and long, dark curls decorated with white flowers falling down her back and over her shoulders. Her dress, crimson in color, was unlike the others, hugging her hourglass figure like it was made on her. Barren could not have thought up a more beautiful girl, and no one around her compared.
A smug smirk crossed Leaf’s thin lips.
“What am I supposed to do with her?” asked Barren. His thoughts were all muddled. He had forgotten why he was here, or how he had intended to attract this girl’s attention. Could he even do that?
Leaf laughed. “Oh, you silly boy, we won’t make it out of this one alive, will we?”
Barren glared at the Elf. “Don’t tell me you expected her! How could she ever agree to marry my brother?”
Leaf shrugged, still smirking. “Ask her.”
Barren Reed hopes to protect the Orient from his tyrant uncle, but his plans to make the King’s life a living hell aren’t supported by the Elders of the pirate community. As it stands, Barren has earned the Elders’ disdain for his carelessness, and they threaten him into exile if he makes one more mistake.
Barren’s not the only one feeling the Elders’ wrath—they don’t trust Larkin either. Worse, Barren can’t comprehend Larkin’s wish to have a relationship with her father, and the secrets she’s forced to keep create a tension that may pull them apart forever.
When the Pirates of Silver Crest begin to die, bullets laced with dark magic are to blame. With more and more of these weapons infiltrating the Underground, discovering who’s behind the dissemination is no easy feat. As fear and tension mount among the people of the Orient, Barren and his crew find themselves in a race against time to stop the spread of dark magic before the world of Mariana spirals into collapse.
Larkin lay against Barren, her head on his chest. She couldn’t sleep, though her eyes were heavy. It was so quiet in his cabin. She was used to sleeping in the hatch in a hammock in the back, where the groan of the ship was loudest. Then there was the heat of Barren’s skin. She’d come to know his warmth, yet she’d also come to know the absence of that warmth. Right now, there was energy between them that had gone unacknowledged since they’d closed the door. Strangely, it made her restless.
She also had questions about this trial. What did it mean that one of Barren’s brethren had come to escort him to Sanctuary? What did it even mean to have a trial among pirates? By the way Edward looked at her, she suspected she might have something to do with this.
“Will they take you from me?” she asked quietly, sleepily.
Barren was very still. She watched his chest rise and fall with the breaths he took. After a moment, she felt his fingers tangle in her hair.
Is that what you fear?” he asked.
“It is one thing I fear,” she said. She feared being taken from him. She feared being sent back to Maris.
“In truth, I do not know what the Elders have planned for me,” he said.
“Do they want to hurt you?”
“They will not kill me,” said Barren. “I am not a traitor.”
“But what you’ve done, it is punishable by the Elders?”
She knew by the silence that Barren did not know how to answer that question.
“By the code, I’ve done nothing wrong.”
The code was a set of rules created by the Elders of Silver Crest. Larkin had once mocked the idea of pirates abiding by any type of law, but she’d come to learn that all Pirates of Silver Crest, even those touted as the most ruthless, were loyal to the code. It ensured that the pirates protect Saoirse, freedom.
“Why call you to trial then?”
“Because I’ve done something they do not approve of.”
Larkin pushed herself up and stared at Barren in the darkness. His features were passive. It seemed so uncharacteristic. This should make him angry, because to her, it sounded unfair.
“So in truth this is against the code,” said Larkin.
Barren chuckled and sat up. “The Elders advise and protect the code, Larkin. To say they do anything against it is blasphemy.”
She regarded him for a moment. Barren’s loyalty to the code of Silver Crest was strong, which meant his loyalty to the Elders would be matched.
“I was under the impression the pirates of Silver Crest lived a life dedicated to Saoirse,” she said. It was one of the first things she’d learned about Barren, how important Saoirse—freedom—was to him. “If that is so, why do these men seem to have power over you?”
“The Elders are men and women,” Barren said. “They are the eldest among us, those with the most experience, and they have no power over us, only wisdom.”
“So they call you to trial to impart wisdom?” This wasn’t making sense. A trial meant that Barren had been charged. It meant there were consequences for actions. He knew this just as well as she did.
“Larkin,” he said and he ran his fingers over her cheek, tangling them into her hair, and secured his hand at the base of her neck. “I don’t want to talk about this right now. It’s in the future, but we’re in the present.”
He pulled her to him, and their lips crashed together, sending heat through her body, diffusing the tension that had built between them in the silence. His mouth moved from hers and trailed her jaw and throat. When he wrapped his hands around her thighs and pulled her to him, she forgot her frustrations—all she wanted to know was how she could be closer to him. The heat from his skin was addictive. It filled her senses, made her desperate.
He twisted, and she yelped as she found herself on her back with her legs still around his waist. He loomed over her and paused to stare, seeming completely focused, yet lost at the same time. She liked him like this. She often had power, but here she was in control. He would do anything she asked, bend to her will. So she reached for him, willing this distance between them to close, and he obliged, meeting her lips with a carnal growl.
Cannon (coming soon!)
The king is dead, the Network is destroyed, and Barren Reed has been exiled by the Elders of Silver Crest. To make matters worse, the black spot–a curse of dark magic–continues to devour him. It’s true purpose is still unknown, but one thing is certain: It will corrupt Barren in the worst way.
With her greatest secret revealed, Larkin Lee flees Maris. Accused of slaying the king, there’s only one place to go–Silver Crest. But Barren isn’t happy to see her, and their reunion leaves more questions unanswered, including whether they have a future together.
As Datherious rises in power, Barren and Larkin must work together to find the fifth Relic to complete the King’s Gold and prevent Datherious from obtaining control over dark magic, but the black spot has other ideas, and the closer they get to finding the final Relic, the more corrupt Barren becomes. Larkin finds herself in a head to head battle with the only man she’s ever loved and the reality is harsh–only one can walk away alive.
Ashley was born and raised in Oklahoma, where the wind really does sweep down the plains, and horses and carriages aren’t used as much as she’d like. When she’s not writing (haha, like that EVER happens!), she’s probably working out or pretending she’s Sherlock Holmes. Her obsession with writing began after reading the Lord of the Rings in the eighth grade. Since then, she’s loved everything Fantasy–resulting in an unhealthy obsession with the ‘geek’ tab on Pinterest, where all things awesome go.
Ashleys Favourite things:
Writing (of course!)This is obvious. One of my all-time favorite things is writing. I’ve been a writer all my life. It is my identity. When I’m having a bad day, I just go hang out with some characters. They don’t always have bad days, but that’s why I write–to get to the good ones. 🙂
Books (Reading) – I’m being obvious again! This is part of my bookshelf. Sorry it’s messy. I tend to just stack stuff. But yes, reading, reading, reading. It’s for any day, all day, good and bad!
Pride and Prejudice – I know I said books earlier, but P&P has to have a category of its own. It is ridiculous how much I love this book, especially recently. I watch the 1995 and 2005 versions of P&P on a regular basis. Why do I love it so much? I guess in some form or fashion, we can all be Elizabeths (or Mr. Darcys). The pics below are from my own copy of P&P
Larkin had a hard time trudging through the mushy path of water, rocks and mud wearing a ball gown. She tripped several times on the too long skirt, only to be caught up in the ever-present arms of her kidnapper. It was infuriating. She would prefer being covered in mud, rather than allowing Barren’s constant attempts to keep her on her feet.
She couldn’t really figure out how to feel—she was scared, yes, but also strangely intrigued. She knew why they’d taken her: as bait to lure William to sea. Her father had warned her that she might be targeted, and she felt stupid having been taken. Every time she looked at Barren, anger flared in her chest.
She’d decided to leave the engagement party after spotting Barren. She’d gone through her options—returning home meant signaling a carriage and drawing attention, and while the castle might offer safety, it didn’t offer her peace. That’s why she’d chosen to head to shore—why would a pirate ever suspect she’d go there? She was a lady, after all. She’d thought she had been discreet on her way out, even escaping Barren Reed’s notice…but, instead, she’d drawn it.
She fell again and jerked away when she felt his hand on her arm.
“I am perfectly capable of standing on my own,” she spat.
Barren gave a short laugh. “Really? Because you’ve been stumbling all over since we left the ship.”
Larkin reached down and gathered her dress up as much as she could and continued forward. “If it is too bothersome for you, we can cut the skirt away.”
Larkin twisted, almost slipping as she did. Her eyes fell upon Barren, narrow and unkind.
“You will not touch me.”
Barren held up his hands. “I was just offering an option to ease your struggling.”
“I’m not struggling!”
She turned around and to her great annoyance, fell again as the rocks and mud gave way beneath her feet. This time, Barren stood aside as she got to her feet again. She refused to look at him, her face burning with embarrassment.