Book: Broke Deep
Series: Porthkennack Universe
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist: G.D. Leigh
Publication Date: June 5, 2017
Length: 249 pages
Morgan Capell’s life is falling apart by small degrees—his father’s dead, his boyfriend dumped him, and his mother’s in the grip of dementia. His state of mind isn’t helped by his all-too-real recurring nightmare of the wreck of the Troilus, a two-hundred-year-old ship he’s been dreaming about since his teenage years.
The story of the Troilus is interwoven with the Capell family history. When amateur historian Dominic Watson inveigles himself into seeing the ship’s timbers which make up part of Morgan’s home, they form a tentative but prickly friendship that keeps threatening to spark into something more romantic.
Unexpectedly, Dominic discovers that one of the Troilus’s midshipman was rescued but subsequently might have been murdered, and persuades Morgan to help him establish the truth. But the more they dig, the more vivid Morgan’s nightmares become, until he’s convinced he’s showing the first signs of dementia. It takes as much patience as Dominic possesses—and a fortuitous discovery in a loft—to bring light out of the darkness.
Broke Deep is the story that refused to sit down and take no for an answer, a tale that waited patiently in my works-in-progress folder for a setting and a context to do it justice. When the Porthkennack universe opportunity came along, Broke Deep bounced into my mind like the most insistent plot bunny, saying, “That’s my home! Write me there!”
Reader, I did.
“It isn’t you, Morgan, it’s me.”
Trust James to have ended things with a cliché. Maybe he’d typed Dear John letters into Google, cut and pasted what he’d found, changed the name John for the name Morgan and copied out the resulting text longhand.
“It’s been great, all of it, but people change. We’ve grown, and not in the same direction.”
The James he’d spent so long with wouldn’t have been able to create such eloquent prose, not without his secretary taking his rough notes to make them into something impressive, as she’d done for him in the past. Please God she hadn’t been allowed anywhere near this.
A simple, I’m bored with you so I’m buggering off, would have been more in James’s line. Or, You’re no longer the spring chicken who caught my eye. I couldn’t be seen going out with a bloke about to hit thirty. Not good for the image.
Morgan had always suspected James kept half an eye on whether there was anything better about. Like a pet cat, seemingly devoted to its owner, but ready to push off and relocate if he found a better household. Morgan’s family had once had a moggy like that; he hadn’t thought he’d end up with a boyfriend who’d show the same proclivities.
“I won’t insult you by asking if we can remain friends, although I hope someday we can be civil enough to share a pint. For old times’ sake.”
So that he could tell Morgan about his latest bloke? Like he used to talk about Jonny and say he’d only been a practice run for the real thing? Morgan slapped the letter on the table. He wasn’t ready to be civil. Especially after three years of James hinting that the real thing might be him. That had been a load of crap, hadn’t it? Like all the other crap James had been spouting these last few months. Why had it taken Morgan so long to realise he’d been strung along?
It wasn’t like he hadn’t been expecting the letter, or something like it, but those cold, hard words still hurt like a kick in the guts. All right, it was better than being dumped by text message—or over Facebook, that treacherous change in status from in a relationship to single—but only just. Why couldn’t the bastard have had the guts to drive down to Cornwall and tell him face-to-face?
Because, truth be told, James was a coward, a man who’d do anything to avoid a scene or put off a confrontation. Getting somebody else to travel down and deliver the bad news would have suited his style, if he could have got away with it.
Morgan screwed the letter up, flung it into the dustbin, and resolved never to think of James Price again. Or at least not for the next ten minutes.
That was all the time it took to make a decent, mud-strong mug of tea and take it out to the garden. If he could survive the next ten minutes without thinking of James the bastard, then he could survive another ten and then another. Like giving up smoking, one cigarette at a time. What he needed was distraction, either general or particular. At least his garden still brought him the happiness that had been sorely absent from his life the last year. He sat on his favourite wooden bench, took a deep breath and half closed his eyes.
Late April was turning out lovely, an early burst of summer in full swing, and the garden of Cadoc, his house, formed the sort of sun trap which became almost unbearable on a hot August day but which proved perfect when spring or autumn turned kind. Morgan listened to the bees, watched the trees and the flowers, and tried not to think of all the times in the past he’d sat here with James.
Count your blessings right now before you go mad.
Blessing one, living in London, the thick air and continual noise, was behind him. Blessing two, working from home and being able to nip out here for the perfect way of clearing his mind, letting his stress dissolve away into the calm sea air.
Only, at the moment, Morgan would have been pleased to be head down in a noisy office, with sights and sounds and externally imposed deadlines to take his mind off that bloody letter and the fact that his life seemed to be falling apart piece by piece. He swatted at a late-flowering tulip with his foot, cursing it for sticking its handsome head up and mocking him with its joie de vivre.
Sod tulips, sod the sunshine and sod James Price.
Morgan swigged back his tea. Right. Life was going to go on, irrespective of how many flowers he kicked the heads off, and if he sat down and thought about things objectively, it might go on a lot more enjoyably without James. In the long run. One day he’d look back at this event as being constructive, despite it hurting like stink now.
Why not count the points in favour of a clean break? Surely there had to be some?
James was a control freak—if things weren’t going as he wanted them to, then they were wrong. His sense of humour had changed, so he only seemed to enjoy jokes at other people’s expense. Morgan had always managed to ignore the roving eye, pretending it was nothing different to admiring the delicacies on the Waitrose cake counter. It didn’t mean you were going to indulge, did it? Except that James had quite possibly been sampling every cake in the box on the sly. It would have been typical of the bastard, and he’d have covered his tracks in the process.
We never did have any realistic future, did we?
Morgan blew out his cheeks—wasn’t this process supposed to be making him feel better? The voice in his head was right, though. Even if they’d got as far as tying the knot, James might have managed to find a dozen ways to slip through it. And that wasn’t what Morgan had wanted, no matter how he’d tried to persuade himself that he’d be the one to make a difference, the Mr. Right who’d keep James on the straight and narrow.
Reason said that he should be pleased to have got the letter, to be shot of James and shot of uncertainty all at once. But all his objective reasoning couldn’t logic away such a ball of pain in his stomach.
The sudden, insistent bleating of the telephone started Morgan out of his remembrances of times past, pleasant and obnoxious. It would be a client, probably, wanting a quote over the phone for a particularly intricate design contract. That would be a good distraction. Not that he was short of work—there was plenty to tide him over—but some kind of project to really stretch his brains would keep his mind off painful things.
“Cadoc Design. Hello?” Morgan’s practiced tones managed to sound both welcoming and businesslike, or so he’d been informed when it had been a friend rather than a client at the other end of the line.
“Oh, sorry. Think I’ve got the wrong number.”
“Not to worry, it’s—” Morgan didn’t have the chance to finish, the abrupt tones of the dialling code signalling that the phone at the other end had been put down. Wrong number? He couldn’t remember the last one of those he’d had, not since the time he’d been plagued with calls to his mobile by someone who’d been convinced he was a pizza delivery service. Not worth ringing 1471 if it was a genuine mistake. He’d got as far as the kitchen, looking to wrest another mug of tea out of the pot, when the phone went again, and he turned on his heels to answer it again.
“Cadoc Design. Hello?” He felt less friendly this time.
“Sorry, it’s me again.” That was obvious from the same dithering voice. “I definitely haven’t misdialled, so either I’ve been given the wrong number in the first place or you’re Morgan Capell.”
“You haven’t and I am.” He’d ditched the polite edge completely. Who could be ringing him out of the blue and what did he want if he wasn’t a customer? If the idiot was trying to sell Morgan his wares, all he’d get was an earful of abuse; cold calls were the bane of everyone’s life, and on a day like today, he had no patience left.
“Right. Sorry to be so useless. I’m dreadful on the phone.”
He could say that again. At least whoever this was came across too awkwardly to be a salesman—no suggestion of smooth talking, and too long a pause in the conversation. Morgan took a deep breath. “I have no idea who you are, but I assume there’s something you want to talk about that isn’t to do with web design?”
“Yes. The wreck of the Troilus.”
“Oh.” Morgan felt his tongue tie itself in knots, as it always did when that particular ship got mentioned. What did this guy want to know about her? And how could he both have got Morgan’s number and known Morgan would have a tale to tell?
“I suppose you want to know how I got hold of you?” The voice on the phone sounded more apologetic than ever. Telepathic, with it.
“That might be a good place to start.”
“Your friend James gave me it.”
“Oh.” Double oh with fucking knobs on. So, not only had James the bastard left him high and dry, he was giving people Morgan’s number at random so they could ring about matters intensely personal? How many years would Morgan get for wringing his ex-boyfriend’s neck, and would they be worth it? “What did he tell you?”
“Only that the ship went down near where you live. I’m trying to research the history of her midshipmen, the ones who got transferred elsewhere before she sank and the unlucky ones who went on the rocks with her.” The voice was gaining in confidence, clearly on a pet subject. “Sorry, I should have introduced myself. Dominic. Dominic Watson.”
Morgan wasn’t sure what to say next, as the introduction the other way had already been done and without his consent. “What is it you want to know? I can’t tell you anything about the ship’s officers.” The prickles of unease that had appeared on Morgan’s neck wouldn’t go away. The Troilus. He hadn’t thought of her in weeks.
“I wasn’t expecting that you could.” Dominic sounded as if he was used to being unlucky. “My request’s a bit different. James said that you’ve got several of the ship’s timbers in your house?”
“Yes, that’s right. The locals made the most of what they could find washed up—there was enough to put some roof timbers in here.” Impressive ones, too. You could still see the stepping of the mast in one place, but Morgan wasn’t going to mention that at the moment. Wouldn’t do to get this Dominic bloke too excited and have him threatening to get straight in the car, camera in hand. There were other reasons, as well, why Morgan didn’t want to raise the issue of this particular ship and not even James had been aware of all of them.
“Wow.” Dominic seemed really impressed, nonetheless. “I tried to find some pictures on the internet, but all I get is the old engraving of the wreck and a diagram of the ship’s lines. Nothing about your house.”
“That would be right. I’ve never posted any pictures of the beams, and my parents wouldn’t have dreamed of anything like that.” They’d been highly protective of their little bit of history, when Dad had still been alive and Mum had been compos mentis enough to care. They’d have hated to end up as part of the tourist trail. “It’s a private property. I don’t give guided tours.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to be so rude.” That last remark had been a step too far; the thought of his mother when she’d been well had brought the old anger to the surface. Dear God, it had been over a year since she went into the nursing home—was he never going to get used to it? “I just want to be sure you’re doing a proper study and not indulging in a Hornblower fandom fest.”
“Mr. Capell, I can assure you that I’m involved in family research.” Dominic’s voice sounded cold and suddenly very clipped. “Our history is connected to that ship, and there have been too many half-truths told that I’d like to put straight.”
Morgan swallowed hard, guilt making him inclined to generosity. “My apologies. Look, I think we’ve got off on the wrong foot here. Your call caught me unawares. I’m not used to people wanting to come and gawp at the cottage.”
“No, you don’t need to apologise. I shouldn’t have barged in like that. James told me that it wasn’t a well-known thing about the beams and that the family were rather protective of their architectural inheritance.” Dominic sighed. “Maybe he didn’t realise how serious I am about the subject.”
“He was probably showing off.” That was James to a tee. Morgan wondered whether Dominic was gay and any (or all) of young, handsome, and available. It would explain why the rat had suddenly decided to start revealing Cadoc’s secrets. “Write me a letter, Mr. Watson.”
“If you’re serious, write me a letter. Explain exactly what you’re researching and what you’d hope to gain by coming to see the timbers.” Morgan felt empowered, as though this would somehow help get revenge on James for his blabbing. “I can’t stop you coming down here and visiting the wreck site—anyone can take the path to Gull Point to get a view of the Devil’s Anvil—but if you want to get in here, you’ll have to persuade me.”
“You’re on.” Dominic chuckled, maybe at the geography lesson, because anyone could find out about the cliff path by consulting a decent local map, especially somebody so avid. “Can you give me your full address?”
“No. That can be your first job. You’ve got my name and phone number and anything else James handed over. Get on the internet and find out the rest. If that defeats you, then you’re no bloody use as a researcher.” Morgan grinned.
“Actually, he didn’t give me anything else. Name of your house, road, nothing.” Dominic didn’t sound too perturbed. “But I’ll take up the challenge. That letter will be with you by the end of the week. Thanks.”
“No problem—” The click at the end of the line cut off Morgan midsentence. He considered the empty mug in his hand—he’d never got that top up—and shook his head. What the hell had all that been about? And what was he going to do if a letter actually came?
Welcome to Porthkennack, a charming Cornish seaside town with a long and sometimes sinister history. Legend says King Arthur's Black Knight built the fort on the headland here, and it’s a certainty that the town was founded on the proceeds of smuggling, piracy on the high seas, and the deliberate wrecking of cargo ships on the rocky shore. Nowadays it draws in the tourists with sunshine and surfing, but locals know that the ghosts of its Gothic past are never far below the surface.
This collaborative story world is brought to you by five award-winning, best-selling British LGBTQ romance authors: Alex Beecroft, Joanna Chambers, Charlie Cochrane, Garrett Leigh, and JL Merrow. Follow Porthkennack and its inhabitants through the centuries and through the full rainbow spectrum with historical and contemporary stand-alone titles.
Check out Porthkennack!
About Charlie Cochrane
As Charlie Cochrane couldn't be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes, with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes, MLR and Cheyenne.
Charlie's Cambridge Fellows Series of Edwardian romantic mysteries was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, International Thriller Writers Inc and is on the organising team for UK Meet for readers/writers of GLBT fiction. She regularly appears with The Deadly Dames.
Connect with Charlie:
- Twitter: @charliecochrane
- Facebook profile page: facebook.com/charlie.cochrane.18
- Goodreads: goodreads.com/goodreadscomcharlie_cochrane
To celebrate the release of Broke Deep, one lucky winner will receive a goodie bag containing postcards, a notebook, a tea towel, candy and more, all from Charlie Cochrane! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on June 10, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!