Read Airship Desire Online

Authors: Riley Owens

Airship Desire (2 page)

“Captain…” His voice trailed off, and he actually shuffled his feet.

“Out with it.” Now she knew she was snapping at him, but her engineer had never been one to stand on ceremony before.

“Captain,” he blurted out, “I think the
Soul
is haunted.”

Clementine stared at him in blank disbelief. “Are you drunk this early in the morning, Strom?”

At her sharp retort the engineer blushed beet-red. “I heard things last night, captain. It was like the engine was talking to me. Never heard anything like it in all my years working the clouds. It can’t be anything else but a haunting.”

Clementine could hardly believe his behavior. “Damn your hide!” She shouted, slamming her hands on the table. “You better get back to your station and keep your mouth shut to the rest of the crew. You hear me? The
Soul
is not haunted!”

The engineer stared at her for a moment, his mouth working fruitlessly, but eventually he turned away and did as she commanded.

However, by midday she had had three more crewmembers seeking her out to report the ship was haunted.

Strom was usually more trustworthy than this, but for some reason he had failed her. She could have punched him in the nose—maybe she should have.

Drunken dreams now meant the whole crew was spooked, and air pirates were as superstitious as they came.

That afternoon, Clementine sighed and looked at the window to where
Deadly Miss
trailed in their wake. She had to make this work—that was all there was to it. They’d struggled too long to get to this point.

However, once the sun went down and they were running on gaslight, the ship did feel different. “Stuff and bloody nonsense,” the captain muttered to herself, but did not pour herself another drink. Not after last night. Glancing into the flickering shadows, she struggled to hold onto her anger.

She’d heard stories about ghost ships, or ships that had lost souls trapped on them, but she knew they were only tales to scare the witless.
Heavenly Soul
was her ship now, and even if there were ghosts she was not about to surrender her prize to them. So she did not take a drink, nor sleep.

Instead, Clementine sat on the wide, comfortable captain’s bed and spread the charts out to examine where next they should raid, and just how far their new ship with its greater range could take them.

The room grew warm very slowly, but after she had absentmindedly unbuttoned her shirt twice, Clementine looked up.

Gaslight flickered over the room, and it had to be her eyes, but there were shadows moving in the corners of the room.

Her stomach clenched when she heard her name again.

Clementine

It was drawn out, almost mockingly, and it made her skin run cold even though now the room was warm enough that a thin line of sweat was running down between her breasts.

She sat very still. She’d faced cannons, tesla lightning, and a very annoyed grand duchess in flagrante. So Clementine had always thought of herself as brave and daring. Yet that voice froze her very core.

Follow me. Come.

The door to the outside blew open, letting in a slice of chill air and moonlight. Clementine stood up briskly with a snarl on her lips. If she had to face down a ghost, then she would do that. She was a skypirate and scared of nothing.

Out on the deck, she glanced around and saw the hatch to the hold open. “Very well,” she growled, “show me what you have!”

She strode over and climbed down the ladder into the hold. Below decks there were even fewer lights.

Here, captain. See what we have.

The voice was stronger, louder, and definitely feminine. Clementine followed it, feeling the weight of her cutlass on her hip as cool comfort and reassurance.

The hold was full of crates and barrels, rolls of expensive cloth, and coils of rope.

This is mine.

The voice was gathering in the shadows—now almost a physical presence. The captain’s heart was racing in her chest. Suddenly, all the warmth of her own body vanished, and a band of ice closed around her throat. Another chill shadow skidded down and clenched around her breast. Her heart was yammering, as the darkness pressed down on her.

Clementine. We can do so much for you. We are the ship of your dreams.

Her breath came harder and faster through her parted lips, as the blackness consolidated itself. Her nipples were tightening beneath her shirt.

Fear was there, but so was something else.

The
Heavenly Soul
will bring you wealth, strength and the fear of every other pirate in the sky.
You know this.

Something pushed her hard, and she stumbled and fell onto a stack of silken cloth. The invisible hand slid up her thigh, even as her mind began racing. Things were moving in the shadows, as her clothing was pulled aside. She gasped as a rough rope slid over her breast.

She could almost see a shape in the darkness, pressed up against her; icy cold and yet somehow sensual. The ties on her pants were pulled loose and the coldness plunged within her.

Everyone will know the name of Captain Clementine Fowler. Everyone.
We can make you everything you dream of
.
Give us your essence, let us in.

Her mind was full of fears and shock, but also the images of the life she’d always wanted for herself flashed before her eyes. It wasn’t really a choice. Clementine she found herself gasping out, “Yes, yes!” as the shadows had their way with her.

 

*****

 

The next morning Clementine woke up in the hold, clothing bunched and thrown aside like she was some dockside slattern. Quickly, she pulled herself together into some semblance of normality, and strode out onto the deck.

The
Heavenly Soul
rocked under her feet, but now every movement felt like it was her own. She had two bodies now, one of flesh and one of wood and silk. The slap of the rigging on the envelope, the chug-chug of the engine, and the movement of the crew around the airship, were intimately felt. It was as if she and the
Soul
had joined together into one being.

A slow smile spread over Clementine’s face. What other captain could claim such intimate knowledge of their vessel? The airship was hers to command as easily as her own body. This great beautiful beast of the sky was more than that—it was her. If it was haunted, so was she.

If all she had to do was spend sometime in the hold, offering up her body to spirit of the airship, then that was what she would do.

The skies were Clementine’s, and soon everyone from Shanghai to Seville would know her name and that of the
Heavenly Soul
.

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