BRVL AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT Gigi Rivers
Series: A Naiad Romance
Kindle Price: $3.99
Read FREE with KindleUnlimited
Print Length: 226 Pages
An MM fantasy romance with friends to lovers, pirates, water nymphs, hurt/comfort, found families, lots of pining, and an HEA.
Levrith is a pirate. He loves the sea, adventure, and the life of a sailor. He also loves his naiad crewmate, Ceto. Unfortunately, Ceto has never seen him as anything more than a friend.
That all changes when Ceto is wounded in battle and must leave the ship to recover. Levrith accompanies him and cares for Ceto when all he wants is to wallow. As Ceto heals, desires grow, and passions ignite.
But is there the possibility for love? And will Ceto recognise it before it is too late?
Kiss is the fourth novel in the A Naiad Romance series. Each book
contains an HEA with no cliffhangers and can be read as a stand alone.
Content notes: sexual content, swearing, captivity and abuse of nymphs, and violence in battle.
Ceto stood alone, heart shattering into pieces, as he watched the man he loved kiss someone else.
Around him on the beach, his pirate crew mates from the Naiad’s Revenge—men, women, and naiads—sang and half slurred a sea shanty. Their drunken, laughing voices filled the night air. The naiad inhabitants of the island clapped along to the song, even though they didn’t know or, more likely, didn’t understand the words.
A naiad from the island danced with a naiad pirate, their arms wrapped around each other as they moved with more enthusiasm than skill. The glowing light from the bonfire reflected on their green skin and hair.
Today was a day for celebration. They had defeated their enemies. Ships sent by the Order to attack Naiad Island had been sunk or were still alight in the bay. Gold-and-red flames licked at the night sky and reflected off the dark water. Beneath the water, their enemies’ bodies fed the fishes. A gust of wind blew, bringing the smells of smoke and burning wood mixed with the sea to Ceto.
The dancing naiads tripped. Sand flew in all directions as they cackled with laughter. The group around them cheered. Everyone on the beach was euphoric with victory, brimming with energy and joy.
Everyone except Ceto.
Ceto stood, unable to move, as he watched Captain Silas Tivera, the man he loved and had loved for years, kiss Raiya further down the beach.
Not that he was surprised. A few days ago, he’d approached Silas. He’d wiped his sweating palms on his breeches and straightened his back.
“I… I wanted to tell you. I know the truth about you being in the Order,” Ceto said. “I guessed, long before Raiya mentioned it to me. Some things you said…” Ceto looked into Silas’s piercing silver eyes.
“Anyway, I wanted you to know that it doesn’t matter to me.” Ceto could smell the man’s woody, musky cologne. “You are a good man. A good captain. You saved me, and whatever you have done previously, it doesn’t matter to me. I feel lucky to serve on your ship. To be your first mate.” Ceto stepped closer, taking a deep breath to steel himself. “I love you. I have for years.”
Heart in his throat, Ceto leaned forward and brushed their lips together. For one beautiful second, it was absolutely perfect. He was kissing the lips of the man he loved. His heart swelled.
Silas placed his large hands on Ceto’s shoulders and firmly pushed him away. Ceto’s world came crashing down.
“I’m sorry, but—”
“No. I’m sorry,” Ceto interrupted. He tried to laugh. Shame and embarrassment flooded his body. “It was silly and foolish.”
Silas’s eyes were filled with kindness and pity. But Ceto didn’t want any of that. He wanted passion and affection. He wanted love.
But Silas didn’t love him. His cheeks still burned at the memory of Silas’s rejection.
Now here he was, watching as Silas kissed Raiya. Silas’s hands clutched at Raiya’s back. Raiya buried his hands in Silas’s hair, messing up the neat ponytail he always kept it in. Ceto’s throat tightened.
Look away. There is only pain in watching them.
But Ceto couldn’t bring himself to do it. He worried that if he moved, he might crumble apart.
He’d worked as first mate to Captain Silas Tivera for years. And for all those years, he had loved the man. Yearned for his embrace. For his kisses. Yearned to be exactly where Raiya stood now. He’d imagined it. Waiting silently, and patiently. Hoping that his devotion and hard work would pay off. That Silas would turn his piercing grey eyes on him, smile, and kiss him.
He’d dreamed it so many times it was almost like a memory. But as he watched the two continue to kiss on the beach, the dream dissipated into nothingness. From the first moment they’d met, Ceto had been in awe of the man. That was only natural. Silas had saved him when Ceto had been captured by the Order. They’d kept him to drain him of his energy. Use his naiad strength in their magic.
He had been locked in a room below ground, in a metal cage too small to stand in.
The air smelled of rot, blood, and mould. No fresh air. No light. His cage had been built to hold several inches of water, which was never changed.
All alone, he stayed in the cage, except for the times the Order, dressed in their robes, came into the room. A single candle was carried by one of them. Another carried a white blade. They chanted and performed their ritual to drain him.
Afterwards, they left him unconscious on the floor of his cage. They’d give him time to recover and replenish his strength. Then they would steal his energy again.
He had only been there a few weeks when the sounds of cries and metal clanging against metal woke him. Shouts and thuds reverberated through the ceiling. Holding his breath, he peered up the stairs towards the closed door, desperate for a sense of what was happening.
Silence. He strained his ears, leaning against the bars of his cage. Slowly, the door squeaked open. A stream of light fell on the stairs. A man’s long legs appeared, treading steadily downwards. The thuds of his leather boots on the wood echoed in the room. This wasn’t one of the robed members of the Order or one of the servants who threw fish scraps into his cage. This was someone new. Someone unknown.
The human held a cutlass in front of him. Dark-red blood dripped along the curved blade. Ceto scrambled backwards, as far as he could in the cage, trying not to make a sound, hoping the man would leave without noticing him.
The man turned and squinted as if trying to see in the dim lights, but it was too dark for a human to see. Ceto, with his naiad’s eyesight, saw the man clearly. He was tall, his broad chest filling the jacket he wore. His hair was tied back neatly. The man had an air of calm control about him as if he hadn’t just been in a fight. But then again, it clearly wasn’t his blood on the cutlass.
“Tomas, bring a lantern!” the man yelled towards the stairs. He spoke with authority. A man who was used to being obeyed. “I think there’s someone down here.”
Ceto held his breath. What will he do to me?
A man, his wooden leg clomping down the stairs, carried a lantern. Tomas, the other man had called him. The lantern swung, casting its faint light around the dark room.
“It stinks in here,” Tomas sneered. “Like something died!” Tomas froze as the light fell on Ceto. “Who’s this?”
The first human didn’t respond. Instead, he stepped closer to Ceto. The bloodied blade flashed in the lantern light. Ceto’s hands clenched at the bars at his back. The man, noticing the direction of Ceto’s gaze, paused, then lowered the cutlass to the ground.
“You have nothing to fear from us. I give you my word.” His voice was deep and firm, but soft as if the man talked to a wounded animal. “I am Silas Tivera, captain of the pirate ship the Naiad’s Revenge. Your captors are dead. You are free.”
Ceto held completely still. He didn’t believe a word.
“You can go back to your home or your family. You can go wherever you want. We’ll help you get there. But you’re also welcome to stay. Join our crew. We have other naiads on board, who fight as equals amongst us.”
Ceto didn’t respond. He stared at Silas. He had not always mistrusted humans. Growing up, he’d met enough to know that they were not all like those from the Order. Still, after what he had been through, he would be foolish to trust the man.
“The name. Is it a promise?” Ceto asked. The human words felt clunky on his lips. His handle of the human tongue was decent, but he hadn’t spoken in days.
“What do you mean?” Silas asked.
“The name of the ship. Naiad’s Revenge. Is it a promise?” Ceto had no home. No family. Nowhere to go. Nothing in his life.
But revenge. He’d be happy with that.
Silas smiled, the corners of his eyes wrinkling. “It is.”
“Then I’ll join.”
It had been as simple as that. He still hadn’t trusted Silas or the humans in the crew. For the first few weeks, he’d always been ready to jump overboard at any sign that Silas’s words were false. But his fears were unfounded.
Since then, he’d fought alongside the crew of the Naiad’s Revenge. For the first time in his life, he had a purpose. He had a place in the world. And he had Silas to thank for it.
Of course, he had fallen in love with the captain. He always treated Ceto with the utmost respect. Had taken him under his wing. Taught him everything—navigation, fighting—even helped him with the human tongue until he’d spoken it as well as his own. He’d promoted Ceto to first mate, second in command to him.
Still, he’d wanted more from his captain. He’d hoped in time that Silas would want more too.
How foolish he’d been.
On the beach, the kiss broke, and Silas cupped Raiya’s face. An affectionate gesture. So different to how he’d reacted when Ceto had kissed him. His eyes had been filled with pity that night. Not love. Not for him.
Silas stroked Raiya’s cheek. Ceto’s eyes burned at the sight. He turned and walked away.
“Ceto! Where you going?” someone called out. “Come drink.” But he kept his head down, pretending not to hear as he walked down the sandy beach towards the ocean.
Why him? Out of everyone in the world, why Raiya? Raiya was moody and angry. True, he was a good fighter. But why him? What does he have that I don’t?
The cool water splashed around his legs as he waded out into it. Still naked, he hadn’t dressed since the end of the battle.
Glutton for punishment that he was, Ceto turned to look back one more time. They were still there, in the distance, kissing once again. He swallowed, trying to shove the pain down. Turning, he dived. The water enveloped and swirled around him. His legs powered through the water as he swam towards the Naiad’s Revenge, the image of the two kissing seared into his mind.
Surfacing, he grabbed hold of the rope ladder that dangled above the water and scampered up. No doubt it wouldn’t be the last time he saw them kiss. Perhaps Silas would try to hide any obvious displays of affection, not wanting to hurt Ceto, since he knew how Ceto felt.
Still, there would be looks and secret smiles. If Raiya was even capable of smiling. He’d see Raiya entering and leaving Silas’s cabin. He didn’t know how he would bear the coming years on the ship. How could he bear the jealousy? The rejection?
But what else could he do? He had nowhere else to go. Being a part of the crew gave him purpose. It allowed him to fight against the Order and save other nymphs in captivity. He didn’t want to leave. He’d need to just shove the broken shards of his heart down and not think about it. Just keep going. Act normal. Like he hadn’t declared his love for Silas and tried to kiss him, making a complete fool of himself.
Even before he pulled himself up onto the deck, laughter, yelling, and singing reached his ears. He just wanted to be alone on the ship and nurse his feelings.
Instead, like on the island, everyone celebrated. Three of the crew stamped their feet, creating a beat, whilst another played a tin whistle. One of the crew, leaning against the mast, took a deep slug from an amber-coloured bottle. A stream of liquid ran down his dark beard.
Ceto spotted Levrith and Rowena, two of his closest friends in the crew, laughing and drinking up near the helm, looking down at the merriment on board. Rowena said something, and Levrith threw back his head, laughing. Normally Ceto would join them, but tonight, he didn’t think he was up for it. He just wanted to forget.
That’s a thought.
He straightened and walked in the direction of his cabin. He’d never been much of a drinker. Not a common habit amongst naiads. Although, quite a few in the crew had taken it up. Not Ceto. But Ceto knew humans drank to forget. And tonight, he needed to forget.
Walking across the deck, Ceto passed Easton the cook and Nyma, one of the fishernaiads, kissing behind several stacked crates. The cook’s shirt had been unbuttoned. Nyma’s hand explored Easton’s hairy chest.
The two were so caught up in each other they didn’t notice, or perhaps didn’t care about, Ceto passing. Nyma pushed the shirt from Easton’s shoulder, kissing Easton’s neck. Easton gave a long, low moan. The sound went straight to Ceto’s groin.
It had been a long time since he’d had sex. Too long. He’d held out for Silas, waiting and hoping. He knew what he wanted and was willing to wait. Even when the captain had slept with others, he’d been patient.
He made his way to his quarters. As first mate, he got his own room. It was small but preferable to sharing with the crew sleeping below deck in hammocks. He knelt by his bed and reached underneath, pulling out his maroon leather trunk. Opening it revealed his neatly folded clothes. Out of habit, he grabbed breeches and pulled them on, buttoning them up. He reached for his shirt. He stopped, fingering the material.
He was the only naiad on deck who wore a complete human outfit. Most just wore the breeches. A few chose to wear a shirt. But whenever he was on duty, he went to the effort of dressing just like a human. He even wore a tricorn hat and boots. Always polished, just like Silas. His long icy-blue hair was tied back into a neat plait.
He wanted to fit in and prove he was a real pirate, someone to be respected and admired. He thought it might impress Silas but apparently not. He was more impressed by a naiad who refused to wear a scrap of human clothing, except for a belt and dagger.
What had Raiya called him when they’d first met? A human pet.
He squeezed his eyes shut. Was that why Silas didn’t want him? He thought Ceto was too spineless.
“What’s so wrong with me?” he whispered to the empty room.
He opened his eyes and stared at the contents of his trunk. A lump wedged deep in his throat.
“Fish and piss!” he swore. Reaching down, he grasped the leather trunk by its sides and flung it across the room. The contents spilled out onto the floor. Shoving at his clothing, he spotted two glass bottles lying amongst his belongings. They had been a gift from Silas when he’d promoted Ceto to first mate.
He gave a short, bitter laugh. Tonight seemed like an appropriate time to open them.
After pulling out the stopper, he took a sip. He almost gagged on the burning liquid. The times he had drunk taught him that he didn’t handle alcohol well. He’d often avoided it just because he didn’t want to look a fool when Silas was nearby.
Too late for that now. He forced himself to take another sip. This time, it didn’t burn quite so much. It didn’t exactly go down well, but easier. He sat on the bed, taking another deep gulp. Then another.
He could still hear the raucous noise from the crew. He felt a sudden desire to be amongst them. Standing, he took another swig. Bottle in hand, he made his way up onto the deck.
The crew continued to laugh and sing, thumping their feet on the deck, whilst several danced and stumbled around. He walked to the railing, leaning his back against it as he watched them. The sea breeze stirred the hair at the nape of his neck. Turning, he stared out towards Naiad Island, where Silas and Raiya still were.
He took another gulp, this time welcoming the burn in his throat. Why had he chosen Raiya? Of all the humans, naiads, dryads, oreads, harpies, and other creatures in the world. Most of the time, Raiya was an asshole. True, Ceto had gotten along more with Raiya the last few weeks as they’d prepared for battle. But he was still a jerk.
He shook his head and took another gulp. Apparently, that was what Silas wanted.
He drank some more. Strangely enough, the more he drank, the less repulsive the drink became.
Ceto turned to see Levrith.
“Have you been drinking?” Levrith asked.
“Jusss’ a little,” Ceto slurred.
“What you drinking?”
Ceto held up the bottle, peering at it as if it would answer for him.
“You don’t drink.” Levrith frowned. The breeze ruffled his hair, and a curly dark lock escaped his ponytail, resting across his brown forehead.
Levrith continued to watch him, dark eyes steady. “Want some company?”
Ceto shrugged again, turning back to the ocean. “Don’t think I’m very good company at the moment.” Ceto wasn’t good enough for Silas. So why would he be good enough for anyone?
Footsteps echoed as Levrith approached and joined him, both gazing at the water. Levrith’s broad shoulder brushed his own. Ceto leaned against Levrith, enjoying the warmth of his body. A little of the pain inside his chest unwound. Good old Levrith. Despite his words, he always did like having Levrith around. He was his best friend. He just made everything better.
Despite his intimidating size, Levrith was one of the nicest people he knew. Never angry. Quick to smile and laugh.
“A nice, gentle giant,” he murmured. “Like a giant potato.”
“What?” Levrith asked.
“Nothing.” He leaned even more against Levrith, his brain soft. The edges of the sharp pain dulled by alcohol to a low, thrumming ache.
“Well, if you’re going to use me as a leaning post, you may as well share.” Levrith reached for the bottle. His fingers grazed Ceto’s.
“Is this all you’ve drunk?” Levrith exclaimed, holding up the bottle. “Blimey! You’ve barely touched the stuff and you’re three sheets to the wind!” Levrith laughed, a hearty belly laugh. “And you call yourself a pirate.”
“Ssshut up!” Ceto gave him a playful shove, but Levrith didn’t budge.
Levrith took a deep gulp. He wiped his mouth with the back of his arm and smiled at Ceto. “You really are a lightweight.”
“I’ll show you who is a lightweight.” Ceto grabbed the bottle from Levrith’s hand and took a deep gulp. The liquid trickled down his chin and throat.
“All right, ginny. Easy there,” Levrith said, taking the bottle. He clapped Ceto on the back. “If you have any more, you might fall overboard. We don’t want that.”
“Pfft. I’m a naiad. I can swim.” True, he’d never attempted a swim drunk, but how hard could it be? “I could swim to shore and back without needing to take a breath! I’m excellent at swimming!”
“I’m aware.” Levrith took another gulp. His dark-brown eyes sparkled with amusement.
“I could beat you in a race, a swimming race.” Ceto pushed a finger in the middle of Levrith’s broad chest. “I could beat anyone in a race.” He gesticulated around at the crew, who were too busy celebrating to pay any mind to his raised voice.
Levrith chuckled. “I’m sure you could.”
Ceto looked back towards Naiad Island. “I bet I could even beat Raiya.” He wondered what Silas and Raiya were doing. Perhaps they were making love right now. Lying on the sand, their bodies entwined. He dropped his head onto the rail. The familiar stab of pain twisted like a dagger in his chest. “Why doesn’t he want me?” he whispered against the wood.
Levrith placed his hand on Ceto’s shoulder and squeezed. Warmth spread from his fingers onto Ceto’s bare skin.
“Maybe it’s time for bed?” Levrith’s voice was gentle.
Ceto shook his head and stood. “I’m all right.”
“You’re swaying,” he said, his voice filled with mirth.
“The ship’s swaying!”
Levrith laughed. “Not as much as you.” He put a beefy arm around Ceto’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s get you to bed.”
Ceto frowned but let himself be led by Levrith, enjoying the feel of the sturdy arm guiding him.
They made their way below deck. He stumbled, but Levrith’s arm around his shoulder kept him on his feet, pulling him against Levrith’s chest, his face pressed hard against Levrith’s shoulder.
“Whoops,” Ceto giggled.
He inhaled deeply and was struck by Levrith’s scent. He smelled of sun, sand, and ocean spray. “You smell nice.” He nuzzled against Levrith, trying to get closer to the smell. He inhaled again. “Why do you smell so nice?” He wanted to roll around in that smell.
Levrith cleared his throat, pulling away. “Come on,” Levrith said. His voice sounded odd. Strained. “Let’s get you to bed.”
Still stumbling, Levrith managed to get Ceto to his quarters.
“What happened in here?” Levrith asked, surveying the contents of his trunk strewn across the floor.
Ceto shrugged, leaning against the door frame. Levrith dropped to his knees, pushing Ceto’s belongings towards the wall in a heap. The fabric of Levrith’s breeches stretched across his arse and thick thighs, drawing Ceto’s gaze. His throat felt suddenly very dry. It had definitely been too long since he had sex if he was ogling Levrith’s arse.
Levrith stood and pulled the sheets down. “Come on, into bed with you.”
“What happened to my rum?” Ceto asked as he stepped into the small room. It felt so much tighter than usual. Levrith’s tall frame seemed to fill it entirely.
“It was gin. What sort of pirate can’t tell the difference between rum and gin?” He placed his calloused hand on Ceto’s shoulder, trying to guide him to bed. “And I think it’s still up on deck.”
Ceto pursed his lips, stepping back and drawing himself up. “I’m a great pirate. Don’t need to drink like you to be a good pirate.”
“Fair enough. Now come on, great pirate.” Levrith’s voice was gentle and cajoling. “Into bed with you.”
Ceto stepped forward, and somehow, he managed to trip. Once again, Levrith caught him. Ceto laughed. Levrith was always there for him. He leaned his head against Levrith’s chest.
“I’m glad I have you,” Ceto murmured, patting his hand against Levrith’s chest. Even through the shirt, he could feel the man’s chest hair.
Pulling back, he gazed up into Levrith’s face.
Levrith’s dark eyes twinkled with amusement. “I’ve never seen you drunk before. Maybe I should get you some water?”
“Not more gin?”
Levrith chuckled and shook his head. “Not more gin. Now come on.” He guided Ceto by his shoulders to his bed. His hands were large and firm. Calloused. Ceto wondered what they would feel like caressing his body. Stroking his cock. Holding his hips firmly as he shoved his cock inside him.
In a daze, he lay down, and Levrith pulled the sheet over his body, completely unaware of the sudden arousal coursing through Ceto’s own. “Do you need anything?” Levrith asked, still leaning over him.
You. The word lodged in Ceto’s throat. He felt light-headed and dizzy. He stared at Levrith’s lips. They were wide and full. They looked soft. He reached out a hand and touched them.
“Soft,” he whispered.
Levrith froze. The amusement disappeared from his eyes as he studied Ceto’s face.
What would it feel like to have the weight of this man pushing him into the bed, kissing him with his soft, full lips? It had been so long since he had felt another body against his. So long since he had lost himself in someone else.
Without giving it another thought, he surged forward, pressing their lips together.
For a split second, Levrith’s mouth moved against his, his hands clutching at Ceto’s shoulders. But then he froze and stood. Levrith’s brown eyes widened.
Ceto’s stomach twisted. Rejected. Again. “Levrith…”
Levrith swallowed. “Sleep, Ceto.” Levrith’s voice was unsteady as he stepped backwards. Ceto tried to interpret the expression on his face. Shock? Panic? Disgust?
Levrith shook his head and left the room. The door closed firmly behind him.
Ceto dropped his head back onto the pillow. “What did I just do?” He hadn’t planned to make a move on Levrith, but he’d smelled so good, and his hands had felt so warm on his skin.
He felt queasy like he was about to vomit. But maybe that was the gin.
Would Levrith be mad? He couldn’t bear to lose Levrith’s friendship. Not now. Maybe he could blame the kiss on the gin. Go to him tomorrow and apologise. He squeezed his eyes shut, wishing he could undo the last few minutes.
He suddenly didn’t feel tired or drunk at all. But he couldn’t go back up on deck. How could he face Levrith? Suddenly, he remembered the second bottle he’d left in the room. He rolled clumsily from the bed onto the floor.
“There you are,” he said, pulling the bottle out from under the bed. He pulled out the stopper and took a deep gulp, welcoming the burn. He had something new to try to forget.
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