Damiano Linderhurst is a new captain with his first air ship. He’s off to make a name for himself, but his first flight hits a snag when a stowaway shows up. To make matters worse, Damiano knows him, and they’ve got history.
He’s a liar and a cheat and now he’s set to blackmail Damiano into getting his way. But Bran, Damiano’s first mate, overhears everything. He now knows some pretty compromising information, enough to ruin Damiano if anyone else found out. It’s up to Bran to decide who gets out of this mess with their life, and their dignity, intact.
Damiano Linderhurst stepped out of his carriage, gave his mother’s driver a silver coin and made his way through the tree lined cobblestone street to the shipyard with the smell of fresh baked bread teasing him on the light afternoon breeze. Women in long skirts and tight corsets nodded in greeting to him, while their male companions smiled in his direction. He was well known in this area of London, partially from his father’s fame with the airships, but also from his mother’s family money. He thrived under the first and detested being reminded of the latter. Still, he wasn’t above greasing a few palms with a gold coin when the situation called for it. Fortunately it hadn’t in many months.
“Good morning, Captain Linderhurst,” a man in a gold brocade vest called to him. His monocle slipped and Damiano jumped to catch it. He held the precious bit of gold and thick glass up for the man to take from his finely gloved fingers.
“Good morning, sir,” he replied. Being unfamiliar with the man, he could not call the man by his name, but the attention alone seemed to please the portly gentleman. “You should be more careful with this. Perhaps a smaller eyepiece would suit your face better.”
The man colored and nodded, slipping his monocle into the pocket of his vest and stepping back. “I shall take your advice under advisement.”
Damiano smirked at his odd choice of phrase before moving away from him as well. “Good day to you.” He tipped the brim of his tall hat and continued walking toward the shipyard. Children gathered around the edge of the gate. They were allowed no further in, but that hardly stopped them from trying to slip past the officers patrolling that section of the street.
Away from the bustle of the city and the pageantry of his home, he took a moment to look down the hill at what his years of hard work in the Royal Academy of Flight had brought him. Not more than twenty meters from where he stood was a large airship, its shiny new silver bracings gleaming in the sun. He, a man of not more than twenty-five years, was to be the captain of that fine vessel. He was the youngest in his class and the first to receive his own ship. That was where the gold coins had come in. It hadn’t been enough just to graduate. No, he had to be the captain of one of her majesty’s ships. And more than that, he had to do it within the year. Nothing else would do.
He was the son of one of the finest captains the academy had ever seen. His brother, may peace be upon his soul, had died in the last great war as the captain of his own airship. It was in his blood to be one of the best captains London had ever seen. It was his destiny to be great. Like a tingle running up his neck, he could feel it in the air. And his men, they’d know it, too. This time next year when he came back to port with thousands of miles spent in the sky under his belt, they’d know they’d spent their time with a man deserving of the title of Captain. And not simply the youngest son of one. His men—
“Damiano! Damiano, wait for me!”
He cringed. His men, they were laughing at him. He turned quickly, the silver pointed tip of his mahogany cane clipping loudly against the cobblestone path as he faced the elderly woman rushing toward him. Well, she wasn’t exactly rushing. Lady Linderhurst would never be caught doing such a distasteful thing. But she was becoming quite sprite on her feet.
“Hello, Mother,” he called when she was close enough. He took her in his arms, thankful to have this last embrace before he was to set sail, even though they’d spent a good hour going through their goodbyes before he’d left in the carriage. It was emotional for her more than it had been for him. But then again, she’d hardly stopped crying since the night before.
“Damiano, my sweet baby boy,” she crooned at him, kissing both his cheeks with the loud smacking of her lips.
He colored deeply and straightened up, hoping none of his men saw such a display. Captains were not kissed by their mothers. By whores and ladies bringing them to their beds of course, but never by their mothers. It was disgraceful, to say the least.
He patted her arms, hoping to soothe her tiring ways before she burst into another round of needless tears. He was not his brother, Arlon. He would not be coming back to her in a pine box to be buried in the cathedral cemetery just down the street from their house. He was not the fool Arlon had been. He was far smarter and braver than his brother, and he’d prove that to not only his mother but to the world, a thousand times over if he had to, until they knew his name and his deeds with each passing breath. They’d see his name in the papers, shout his praises from the balconies and throw roses down to him as he went about his daily duties. That was the kind of man he was, the kind of man who would be returning to his mother’s side in a year.
If only she’d let him actually go.