Jack Cavendish needs to get to his station at Fort Charlotte, a fur-trading outpost in Grand Portage, Upper Canada. The fort is only accessible by canoe, and there’s just one man willing to take him on the perilous, thousand-mile journey from Montreal this late in the summer. Young Christian Smith, the son of an Ojibwe mother and absent British father, needs the money to strike out on his own, so he agrees to take Jack deep into the wild.
As they travel endless lakes and rivers, at times having to carry the canoe over land, the arduous expedition takes its toll. Yet the attraction between Jack and Christian, two men from vastly different worlds, grows ever stronger. Locked in a battle against the wilderness and elements, how long can they fight their desire for each other?
Note: This book is currently out of print. I will be expanding and revising it at some point in the not-too-distant future. I’m aiming for 2015.
An excerpt from Voyageurs
Their streak of luck with the weather soon ended. Jack’s muscles still throbbed with pain, but he’d gotten the hang of the paddling stroke and had just started to enjoy himself a tiny bit when the dark clouds rolled in.
He soon discovered that the only thing worse than paddling a canoe all day was paddling a canoe all day in the rain. They were farther inland now, and hadn’t seen anyone else on the shore or water for two days.
“Should we stop until the rain lets up?” Jack had to shout to be heard above the deluge.
He was now accustomed to rather one-sided conversations with Christian, and didn’t hear a response. Glancing over his shoulder, Jack looked for some sign that he’d been heard. Christian paddled as normal, fast and steady. He shook his head.
With a sigh, Jack turned front and dipped his paddle again. His clothes were already soaked, and without the sun, the air had turned surprisingly chilly. So far Canada had been almost as warm as India.
It was mid-afternoon when they reached the far end of a large lake they’d been paddling across for several hours. As Christian directed the canoe toward the hard sand beach, Jack chewed on a soggy piece of pemmican. He hoped to God they were stopping early after all. He was soaked and miserable.
At the shore he stumbled out of the canoe, his legs cramped and sore, as usual. He helped Christian drag the canoe out of the water and then collapsed, his breathing labored. Christian dropped down beside him and passed Jack his canteen. The rain continued to batter them and the wind whipped.
After only a few minutes of rest, Christian stood. “Time to go.”
“What? Go where?” They’d reached the end of the lake.
Christian pointed toward the forest. “Portage.”
Oh good lord. Jack had somehow forgotten about this aspect of the journey and the fact that the rivers and lakes weren’t all connected. “In this weather?”
Christian didn’t answer as he shouldered his pack. He stood by the canoe, waiting. Jack told himself to get up, but his body refused to listen. “How far is it?”
“Not far. Less than a mile.”
“A mile? I should hope it is nearer than that indeed! How are we to be expected to carry the canoe that far?” He couldn’t do it. It wasn’t possible.
“Normally we’d each carry ninety pounds of trade goods as well as the canoe. Consider yourself lucky. Get up.”
Jack bristled at the command. “Now see here, I don’t take orders from…from…” He cast about for the right word but couldn’t find it.
With a few strides, Christian stood directly in front of him, forcing Jack to look up. “From?”
“I’m your elder for a start.” Jack got to his feet, and since they were of a height they were evenly matched. “You’re barely more than a boy.”
“I’m twenty. I’m a man.” Christian’s eyes blazed.
“A man who works for me.”
“I work for the North West Company.”
“Yes, and I’m to be in charge of Fort Charlotte, owned and operated by the very same North West Company. Clearly I outrank you, and I say we’re staying here for the rest of the day.”
Christian menacingly stepped closer, and Jack’s heart rate doubled as a thrill of excitement whipped through him. “You knew what you were getting into. We have to portage. The canoe won’t be any lighter tomorrow. If we don’t keep moving, we won’t make it before the ice.”
“I don’t care. I’m tired. I’m tired, and I’m wet and I won’t go a step farther until I’m ready! You can’t make me.” Somewhere inside, Jack knew he was acting as a petulant child would, but he set his jaw stubbornly. He’d followed orders for weeks and paddled at a punishing pace. He would go no farther on this day.
Christian’s gaze was steely. “I’m on this suicide expedition because of you. You will move when I tell you.”
Jack’s sneer was an imitation of his father’s, a man who had looked down on most everyone, including his wandering son. “I repeat, I do not take orders from the likes of you.”
With a lightning-fast movement, Christian toppled Jack to the sand, his strong body holding him down, his forearm pressing on Jack’s throat. “You may be a fine English gentleman, but out here, the filthy half-breed is in charge. I could leave you here. Let you fend for yourself. You wouldn’t last a week.”
Jack squirmed under Christian’s weight, gasping for breath. Christian’s body was strapping and powerful, and despite himself Jack was alive with exhilaration and desire. His body responded, much to his humiliation. With a muttered curse, Christian pushed off him and paced back and forth. Jack was utterly shamed by both his lust and his childish whining.
He sat up. “I’m sorry. I know we have to go on.” Something Christian said finally registered. “What do you mean, half-breed?”
Christian’s pacing ceased and his expression was unreadable. He said nothing.
Jack stared up at him, confused. “You said you were a half-breed. I thought you were British. Well, Canadian, but your name is Smith.”
After a few moments of apparent disbelief, Christian laughed harshly. “You mean you can’t tell?”
“No, obviously not.” Jack belatedly realized that the tanned tinge to Christian’s skin wasn’t only from exposure to the sun. At Christian’s dubious look, he added, “I’m not having you on. I didn’t know.”
“My mother was Ojibwe. An Indian.” Christian clarified.
“And your father?”
“Where are you from?”
“By Lake Superior. My father was stationed at an outpost near my mother’s village.”
“Do your parents still live there?”
Jack realized Christian had spoke of his mother in the past tense. “Your mother is…”
Although this was clearly not a subject Christian relished, Jack found himself unable to stop talking. It was a nervous habit from childhood he’d never been able to break. “And your father?”
“Really? Which part?” Jack shifted in the wet sand and realized the rain was finally letting up.
“So you’re not close then?”
“No.” Christian opened his canteen and drank before refilling it in the lake.
“What’s his name? Perhaps I’ve met him.” Which was utterly ludicrous, but Jack didn’t know what else to say.
Christian levelled him with a sardonic look. “John Smith.”
“Ah. Rather a common name, I’m afraid. What does he do in England?”
Christian opened his pack and rummaged around. “Don’t know.”
“Was he here for long?”
“Long enough. Then he went back to his real wife. Real children.”
“Oh. I’m afraid I don’t quite understand.”
“My mother was his ‘country wife.’ That’s what the white men call them. He gave me his name and taught me English. Thought it would aid my heathen soul to call me ‘Christian.’”
“Surely if he loved your mother he didn’t think either of you a heathen.”
“Love? She was practically his slave.” Christian stood and swung his pack over his back. “Time to go.” Clearly the conversation was over. Christian waited at the front of the canoe, his stare daring Jack to defy him.
Jack didn’t argue this time and after putting on his pack, he went to the other end of the boat. On Christian’s count, they rolled it over and then hefted it over their heads. Jack wavered under the weight, and the canoe was almost unbearably heavy on his blistered hands.
Christian led the way down a path through the trees. Jack followed, unable to see anything but Christian’s broad back and the underside of the canoe over their heads. Jack stumbled more than once on tree roots, and his arms and shoulders burned as he and Christian pushed onward. He concentrated on breathing and counting his steps. Anything to take his mind off the pain.
When Christian finally stopped, Jack staggered to his knees, the canoe crashing down on his head. He saw stars and groaned, rolling onto his back as Christian lifted the boat from him. Kneeling at Jack’s side, Christian peered down. “Rest.” He touched Jack’s arm, and Jack felt a heat through his damp shirt where Christian’s fingers splayed.
Then Christian was gone and setting up camp. When Jack was able to sit up, he realized they’d made it to the other side, and another lake lapped at the shore in the gloom of the late afternoon. It was a most welcome sight. They could still paddle for a few more hours, but Christian had clearly taken pity and Jack wasn’t going to argue.
He was muddy with sand and dirt, and Jack stripped off his clothing and hurried into the water. It was cold, but he needed to feel clean again. Christian sat back on an outcropping of rocks, smoking his pipe, eyes closed. He’d taken off his shirt, and Jack admired the contours of Christian’s chest. A surprising sprinkling of dark hark set off his silky-looking skin. Christian had the smooth, clean face of his Indian ancestors, and was amused whenever Jack pulled out his razor for a fastidious shave.
Jack backed up until he was standing in the lake up to his neck. He wondered what it would be like to touch Christian, and despite the chilly water, his cock sprang to attention. Christian’s eyes remained closed as he puffed contentedly on his pipe. Jack took himself in hand while he had the chance, squeezing and stroking rapidly as he imagined touching Christian. Imagined tasting him.
Jack’s breathing became shallower as he pleasured himself, watching Christian’s lips close around the pipe, his long inhalations and the way he sighed as he breathed out. He thought about Christian on his knees as that anonymous sailor had been on the voyage to Canada. He envisioned Christian’s mouth on him, his tongue dancing around Jack’s cock. Jack’s arm moved rapidly beneath the water, and as he came, he ducked beneath the surface to disguise his groan of bliss.
When Jack emerged, Christian’s eyes were open and focused on him. Christian stared for a long moment, and then took another puff.
There would be no fire that night, so they quickly ate a cold dinner. Jack couldn’t wait to reach Grand Portage and have proper meals again. When he returned from relieving himself in the woods, he saw that Christian had pulled the canoe farther up the riverbank. One end of the overturned canoe was perched on a low rock. Christian unrolled a large, oilskin tarp over it. He glanced over at Jack. “This will keep the rain off.”
Jack’s heart skipped a beat. “We’re sleeping under there? Both of us?”
Christian’s expression hardened. “I’m not sleeping out in the rain.”
“Oh, no! I wasn’t suggesting you should.” Jack felt so flustered and dim-witted. “It just looks… small.” He was always saying the wrong thing. The thought of sleeping next to Christian in such close quarters set his pulse racing. They’d slept under the stars until this point, with plenty of ground between them.
Christian grunted a response and disappeared into the forest. The rain had slackened a bit, but Jack was still eager to take cover. He crawled under the tarp and the canoe. Although the ground was sodden, it was a relief to be out of the elements.
A few minutes later, he heard Christian’s approach. Jack couldn’t see much under the shelter, and he tried to squeeze himself over to one side. Christian shimmied in beside him, and although Jack had been practicing a deep breathing technique he’d picked up in India, his body still reacted. Christian was mere inches away and it was as if Jack could feel the heat of Christian’s body.
Jack took a ragged breath. Christian’s voice was loud in their little shelter. “Are you ill?”
After clearing his throat, Jack replied, his voice shaky. “No, no. I’m fine. Thank you.”
Christian rolled over, his broad back so close to Jack. If Jack shifted only a tiny bit, his shoulder would press into Christian. He wondered if Christian would move away. Soon Christian snored lightly, and Jack reminded himself that he needed to rest. He was exhausted, and yet sleep refused to come. He listened to the rain on the tarp and Christian’s deep, steady breathing. He could reach out so easily…
Copyright © Keira Andrews