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Living in Waldenbooks

Today’s prompt from #MFRW is Childhood Memories.

There used to be a chain of bookstores in the US called Waldenbooks. A very young Delilah practically lived at hers. Every month, like clockwork, there was a new Baby-Sitter’s Club book to buy. Every week there were what, at the time, felt like an endless source of opportunities. This particular Waldenbooks was next to a toy store, but little Delilah never spent her allowance there–or only rarely, for there were books to buy!

When you spend as much time in a small bookstore as young Delilah did, you get to know the staff, and vice versa. It was amazing when they started giving her personalized recommendations based on what she’d previously bought–sort of like how websites like Amazon do now. They were the ones to introduce her to the worlds of Xanth (Piers Anothony) and Valdemar (Mercedes Lackey) in the adult section, even though they’re more YA than anything else.

The other place young Delilah loved above all else was the library. Thousands of books to read–for free! The best gift her mother ever gave her was when she signed the form that let an eleven year old Delilah read books from any section of the library, not just the children’s section. Of course she immediately abused by reading Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. Other books read too young include Gone With the Wind and Clan of the Cave Bear, among many others.

Obviously the common thread is books. Something about being surrounded by books is like feeling endless possibilities. Each book gives you a peek into a new world, or lets you return to a world you’ve enjoyed in the past. Books didn’t care that she didn’t have a lot of money, or that she only had one parent, or that she struggled to make friends. Books were friends, and better ones than the kids who she just didn’t get. (Young Delilah was a little weird, and didn’t find her community until college.)

Books inspired her imaginative play. Dolls acted out Baby-Sitter’s Club scenes. Delilah adopted a nickname shared by a BSC member and used it for nearly eight years after it became habit. A trailer that she lived in had a small copse of fir trees, and every time she passed through it, she hoped that she’d end up in Narnia (Not today–not getting raptured up because you like lipstick? Fuck that noise.) Even today, Delilah will play around with the worlds that she finds particularly interesting–writing fanfic in her head for the fun of it.

True then, true now–surround Delilah with books, and she’s a happy woman.

ARC review–The Fearless King by Katee Robert

The Fearless King by Katee Robert

4.5/5*

Publication date–Feb 5, 2019

I received The Fearless King from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wanted to start my new year’s reading off with a bang, and after two sweet romances without any sex, I was ready for some scorching romance. The Fearless King did not disappoint.

The Fearless King is the second book in the King series by Robert. I had not read book one prior to reading this book, but The Fearless King works as a stand-alone. Having finished it, I did go back and buy book one because I want to read the story that informed this one.

Journey King is the COO of Kingdom Corp, a family business. Her mother was forced out of town (this is the story in book 1) but she and her older brother have taken over the company. Things are going along well…until her father returns to town, hell bent on taking over the company. As it turns out, their father’s family had given their mother the cash to start Kingdom Corp and are now the main shareholders.

But it’s so much worse than her father coming back into her life at work. He abused her and her siblings as children, and he’s playing the same psychological games, and Journey feels like everything is slipping away. So she turns to the only person who might be able help.

Frank Evans is not Journey’s friend. He helped run her mother out of town. He won’t sell her real estate she wants. He’s ruthless, and trusting him with her secrets and asking him to help her oust her father is possibly a step too far, but he’s her last resort.

Frank knows that he shouldn’t care about Journey. Shouldn’t want her. But, against his better judgment, he does. When he agrees to help her, his condition is that they pretend to have a relationship so he can get closer to her family and her company. Things turn real very quickly when her father makes it clear that he’ll take the company–at any price.

I read the first two chapters, turned to my spouse, and said “now that’s how you start a book!” I was sucked in until the next thing I knew, it was four a.m.!

Journey is well written, both in her moments of strength and her moments of terror. She is vulnerable, sassy, strong, and even when her demons are riding her, she is compelling. Frank is more of an enigma, but his jagged pieces fit Journey’s. You see the struggle within him to From the moment he summons her to his office in the nightclub to the first bout of oral sex to the incredibly suspenseful ending, you don’t just want them to be together, you need it.

The sex is scorching. Incredibly satisfying, captures the mood and tone perfectly, as well as capturing the personalities involved.

I liked that it is an interracial romance, and that race was actually discussed. People harass Journey over her relationship with Frank on a number of levels, but race is absolutely one of them. For his part, Frank is also pragmatic and realistic about his skin color and the impact that has on him being one of the richest developers in Houston. The racial dynamics were also well done–there’s no fetishizing skin tone, but you don’t forget it either.

My only real complaint is that the fake relationship (one of my top three favorite tropes) doesn’t really go anywhere. It never really gains enough steam, or has enough emphasis on it in the way I usually see the trope done. I would call this erotic romance, or maybe suspenseful romance, but I wouldn’t immediately think of it and go “oh, yeah, a fake relationship book.” But this is a minor complaint–for all that it was a big part of why I chose it on Netgalley, I was happy enough with the story that I don’t care that the fake relationship was such a minor component.

4.5 stars, which I’ll round to 5 when reviewing. Pre-order it here.

Is writing for fun, profit, or other?

Welcome to week 1 of 52 prompts from Marketing for Romance Writers.

This week’s question is Writing–Doing it for fun, profit, or other?

I’ve been telling stories as long as I can remember, so I’ve never been motivated by money. The problem with the word “fun” implies frivolity, and writing isn’t a frivolous act for me. I suppose that means I fall into the “other” category. Or at least I used to.

Turning professional has really exposed how much of writing is marketing, and how hard it can be to find an audience and to profit from your writing. Unless you’re Nora Roberts or Beverly Jenkins you can’t expect the money to come pouring in. So, sure, you can say you’re writing for the money, but I don’t know how long you’ll last if that is your motivating factor.

Is writing fun? Yes, although I hate editing. But when I get sucked into the worlds I’m creating and am in the story with my characters, I’m having a ton of fun (well, except when they make me cry, but even that is fun in its own way). I would argue that I wrote primarily for fun when I used to write drafts of stories, not really bother with editing, and then threw them up on websites like literotica. The comments stroked my ego, as did the numbers that told me how many people had read it.

The thing is that while writing is fun, there’s so much more involved with professionally doing it. You hold yourself to a much higher standard, you have beta readers, you go through drafts (don’t even get me started on how many drafts fucking Plunder has been through), and then you either submit to a company (who will expect you to market your own books) or you self-publish (which carries a lot of issues like formatting, making a cover, etc). It is time consuming and often draining. Marketing is where I struggle and, if anything, makes writing less fun for me.

So why bother? If editing is a hassle and marketing can be soul-sucking why do it for anything other than fun? I want to share my stories with the world, and I hope that I will eventually find my audience. I’m still a newborn when it comes to everything that isn’t writing.

I also don’t know how not to write. The stories grow inside me until I have no choice but to write them down. For me, writing is like reading–a compulsion, something as vital as breathing for me. I don’t know how not to do it. While I have taken breaks in writing, I’m still telling stories–to myself, to my kids, to the cats, whatever.

Why do you write?

Book Review–Dirty Series by Jaine Diamond

Dirty Series, Book 1

Today I’m going to do something a little different. Rather than review a specific book, I’m going to talk about a series. In the last weeks of December, I somehow stumbled upon Dirty Like Me by Jane Diamond. I read it, and then devoured the rest of the series. I’m going to try to keep the review spoiler free, but I’ll have some general comments about each book.

The Dirty series centers around the insanely popular Canadian rock band, Dirty. There are five band members, a manager, and the head of security who get books. Brody, Zane, Jude, and Jesse have known each other since at least their teens, and there’s a lot of history there. The other members of the band are newer, with new being a relative term. But the band’s makeup was static until just after the first world tour. Seth’s drug addiction went so far that he needed to be kicked out of the band. When the series starts, we’re in the lead-up to the tenth anniversary of that first album. The books take place from that lead-up through the tenth anniversary tour–roughly just over a year.

Book 1 is Dirty Like Me. It centers around Jesse, Dirty’s lead guitarist, and Katie. Katie’s best friend works in the entertainment industry, and because Katie stumbles into a meeting, she’s asked to be the girl next door in Jesse’s first video as a solo act. When the video goes viral, everyone is hungry for Jesse and Katie. He asks her to come with him on a six week tour, posing as his girlfriend

I fucking love the fake relationship trope. LOVE. IT. It’s what caught my attention about book one, which is what led me down the rabbit hole of the whole world/series.

The next story–Dirty Like US–is technically 0.5 in the series, but Diamond recommends reading it second, I’m guessing to ensure that readers know and are a little invested in Maggie and Zane. This story is free when you sign up for Diamond’s mailing list. It’s a fast read, but very important to a secret that gets exposed in the real book 2. Can you live without it? Yes, but why would you want to?

Book 2 is Dirty Like Brody. This one takes place leading up to/during Jesse and Katie’s wedding. (Which, if you’re shocked by the news that the fake relationship turned real? Welcome to Romancelandia.) The couple is Brody, Dirty’s manager, and Jessa Mayes, Jesse’s little sister. She used to write music for the band, but ran away to model. She never really comes around anymore because dark secret. He’s been in love with her forever, and it’s always been mutual but things never worked out that way. Until now?

Book 2.5 is A Dirty Wedding Night. Diamond warns you that short stories/novellas aren’t necessarily HEA (Happily Ever After), and I’m going to second that warning. However, we see several important dynamics and connections at play in four different couples. Just know going in that not everyone is getting out with an intact heart, and read it. You’ll be happy you did, especially as those dynamics become really important in future books. Don’t skip it or go back to read it later–I strongly encourage you to read it in this order.

Book 3 is Dirty like Seth. The couple in this book are Elle, the bassist, and Seth, the disgraced former rhythm guitarist. This is my least favorite book because the pairing didn’t quite click for me in the same way that the others did. I also think Seth’s redemption is too easy. But the book has a five star rating on amazon with over 50 reviews, so what do I know?

Book 4 is Dirty like Dylan. It’s a threesome romance between Dylan, Dirty’s drummer, Ash, the lead singer of another band who usually tours with Dirty, and Amber, a photographer. While Seth’s book is my least favorite, Dirty like Dylan replaced Dirty Like Me as my favorite book. I read the series on Kindle Unlimited, but thus far have only bought this book. The sex is insanely hot. It totally changes the way you see a character who primarily shows up in A Dirty Wedding Night and Dirty Like Seth, and when his heart gets broken (again) it sort of destroyed me a little.

I find that triad sex is a tricky needle to thread. I say this as a writer who has largely avoided writing threesomes because I’m intimidated by the prospect of doing so. I also say it as a romance reader who has seen it go wrong…a lot. I was really happy right up until X’s heart gets broken. I generally prefer my triads to still be together by the end of the book, and Diamond goes the route of having the heroine “pick.” In this case there are a lot of reasons it happens and everything is very complicated and shades of gray. Ultimately, though, I have to cede the fact that Diamond gets it right given the characters involved. But it’s not 100% an HEA, as she hurts the character I want to hug/fuck the most. Thank god he’s getting his own book/series in 2019.

Book 5 is Dirty Like Jude. Up to this point, Jude is a bit of an enigma. He’s best friends with Jesse, is head of security for Dirty, and has known Jesse and some of the others since they were young. He’s involved with a Motorycycle Club (MC). Because of that, I walked into the book very interested in him. The thing that didn’t quite work for me, though, was the heroine. I don’t know if I just didn’t see enough of her to get invested in her, but I wasn’t. Not like the other couples–I wanted to know what happened with Jude. Roni is Jessa Maye’s (book 2) best friend since childhood. Roni has been in love with Jude since she was a teen, but she ruined it by boasting how much she wanted to fuck his brother when she didn’t know he could hear her. Her nickname is “Wildcard,” and while she has growth and an arc, I’m just more invested in Jude.

Book 6 is Dirty Like Zane. I know I speak for many fans when I say that I was D.Y.I.N.G. to read this fucking book by the time I got to it. I read fast, so it was within ten days of starting the first book, but it wasn’t fast enough. We learn a huge secret about Zane and Maggie in book 2 (or if you read book 0.5, you’ll learn it then) and since that moment, as a reader you will be so so so so ready to read their story. To avoid a spoiler, I will just say that they have a complicated history and I was salivating to see how it would play out.

Zane is the lead singer of Dirty, a brash womanizer and reformed alcoholic. Maggie is the co-manager of Dirty. They have so much chemistry together, and watching them come together is just so fucking great. It’s a fantastic end to the series.

I strongly recommend reading the whole thing, start to finish (and even if I didn’t love book 3, it still moves the plot forward in ways that are important in the following books).

The big pros of the series

  • The sex is outstanding. I’ve revisited some of the sex scenes a few times since I read the books initially. I am especially a fan of the threesomes in book five, Dirty like Dylan.
  • The characters and the world are compelling. Part of why I burned through the series without stopping was because of how invested I became in them. There are lots of breadcrumbs along the way that make you need to know what happens in the following books.
  • Diamond turned an archetype that I’d never been attracted to before–the rockstar–and made me hungry for more.
  • There are short stories and novellas in the series. They aren’t necessarily Happy Ever Afters (HEA’s), but they add color and richness to the world and the relationships within it.

The big cons of the series–I can’t do it spoiler free. Skip this if you want to avoid the spoilers.

  • At times, the books don’t seem as thought through in advance as I’d expected. In book two, Seth is made out to be a pretty serious threat to the heroine’s emotional safety and there is a lot of bad history. In book three, he gets a “redemption” that I just found hard to swallow or believe. But kudos for making me care so much that it actually bothers me weeks after I read the book.
  • I’ll to keep this bullet as vague as possible. There is a male bisexual character, and he hates that he has sex with men and is in love with another man. The self-loathing queer is a toxic stereotype, and I was disappointed to see it. Not so disappointed that I didn’t keep reading my favorite book in the series, but I did ding my Goodreads rating by a star because of it.

I definitely recommend the Dirty series as a whole. The world building is compelling, the characters are interesting, the sex is hot, and I now want to hear one of Dirty’s albums, so that makes me officially a fan.

There is a spin-off series coming in 2019 and I can’t wait to read it!

Best Books of 2018

According to Goodreads, I’ve read one hundred fifty books this year.

Having read so many books, which were the best ones? The ones that stuck with me, that I want to grab you and tell you to read this book now. Here are ten, in no particular order.

Buy Hamilton’s Battalion here

This is an anthology of three novellas perfect for the Hamilton fan in your family. All the stories touch upon Alexander Hamilton, but they are not about him. Rather he serves to act as the connecting thread through three very different stories.

My favorite is Promised Land by Courtney Milan. It’s the story of Rachel, a woman serving in the continental army as a man and Nathan, who she tackles, thinking him a British spy. Reasonable, given his sympathies when they last spoke. Awkward, given that her husband thought she’d died of yellow fever. Rachel and Nathan are both great characters, and they have issues to work through (even putting aside the failed her own death thing) that make the story compelling.

Buy A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole here

A Princess in Theory is the first book in the Reluctant Royals series by Alyssa Cole. I couldn’t put this book down. Ledi and Thabiso’s story is part modern fairy-tale (a prince in disguise) part secret identity exposed (prince? Or fuckboy?) and a hell of a lot of fun. I love that the heroine is a scientist and completely dismissive of Prince Thabiso, who has never been treated that way before. When an unknown disease hits Thesolo, Thabiso convinces Ledi to go there with him and help find a cure. Oh, and they’ll need to pretend their childhood engagement is back on. (I love the fake relationship trope)

Book 2 in the series was great, and I’ve pre-ordered book 3 (April 2019) and the novella that will act as book 2.5 (Jan 2019).

Buy Rosemary and Rue here

So I’m actually going to use this space to encourage you to read the entire October Daye series–I devoured the first twelve books in only a few weeks. I will say that books 1 and 2 are good but a little shaky, but once they take off in book 3 they only get better and better. October Daye is a half-human half-fae in this urban fantasy series.

It opens with her on a case as a private detective–but instead of recovering the missing people, she is turned into a fish for fourteen years. That loss of time informs the rest of the series because her partner moved on, and her daughter wants nothing to do with her. She turns her back on the world of Fae until she’s dragged back into that life by a binding spell. The secondary characters are compelling, Toby is a flawed but awesome heroine who anchors the series. I love Seanan McGuire’s books almost without exception and I’m already dying for book thirteen.

Buy Puddin here

If you’ve read or seen Dumplin’ (and you SHOULD), you’ll want to read the sequel, Puddin’. If you haven’t, Puddin’ works as a solo book, but Dumplin’ is so good, I encourage you to read both. Puddin’ is the story of Millie Michalchuck, who has gone to fat camp every year, but is determined to go to a journalism camp this year instead. Callie Reyes is in line to be the next dance captain until she leads an act of vandalism, and Millie identifies her. Callie has to work with Millie at her uncle’s gym as her punishment. An unlikely friendship forms…until Callie finds out that Millie is the one who turned her in. Millie has to battle her mother and the world’s expectations of fat girls to follow her dreams. Julie Murphy is great.

Buy Me Talk Pretty One Day here

This is actually a recommendation for the audiobook rather than the physical book. While reading the essays can give you a giggle, it’s hearing David Sedaris’s voice with all of its inflections as he reads his work that will make you die of laughter. I recommend all of his books, and just finished Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls on audiobook about a month ago.

Buy Heretics Anonymous here

When an atheist is enrolled at a Catholic school, how will he ever make friends or fit in? How will he survive any day without his eyes rolling out of his head? This is a great YA novel about faith, falling in love, and growing up. Definitely worth a re-read.

Buy Big Fat Bitch here

I gave a rave review to Big Fat Bitch here, but my fast review is that this slow burn romance is a great take on Beauty and the Beast. I love that the “beast” in this book is the woman. But it’s so much more than a romance. If you like deeply complex narratives, love stories, and books making you cry, pick this one up.

Buy Media Darling here

I reviewed Media Darling here, but my fast pitch is that this f/f romance between a movie star and a media writer is possibly my favorite romance of the past year, period. Both Emerson and Haley are well written, three-dimensional characters. They make mistakes, make love, and while it’s hard fought, they get their happy ending.

Buy The Autumn Bride here

I got this book from The Ripped Bodice (indie romance bookstore–buy from them!) as a “blind date with a book.” I haven’t read much Regency era romance, but it was my blind date, so I decided to give it a chance. Abigail and her three closest friends are practically starving. So Abby does something she’d never imagined–she goes over some rooftops and breaks into a house, desperate to find something to buy–or eat. Instead she finds Lady Beatrice, an old woman being abused by her servants. Abigail and her friends save Lady Beatrice from her servants and are promptly adopted as her “nieces”–the Chance sisters.

When her real nephew, Max, returns from abroad, he’s certain that the girls are gold diggers at best. Sparks fly between him and Abigail, and the rest is history. Each of the four books (Autumn Bride, Winter Bride, Spring Bride, and Summer books) works as a stand alone, but they’re better read back to back as a series.

Buy Nate Expectations here

Nate Expectations is actually the third book in Tim Federles’ series about Nate, a small town boy who becomes a Broadway Actor. In this book, Nate’s show closes down and he has to go back to small town life. When he’s assigned a project on the book Great Expectations, he decides to put on a musical. The book centers around this. There’s great secondary characters and Nate continues on his journey to figuring out who he really is.

You don’t need to read the first two books in the series, but if this book appeals to you, read them first.

What was/were your favorite book/s of 2018? If you want to see what I’m reading in 2019, keep up with me on Goodreads.

Year in Review 2018

2018 was…a year.

As a political junkie, I feel exhausted. Being involved in politics as a member of the Singapore Country Committee of Democrats Abroad and doing some social media for the national organization was nothing like living in the US. From there, it was a matter of reading newspapers and such and getting a lot of information, but at a digestible pace. In the US, especially under our current regime, it’s like drinking water from a fire hose. And while I’m thrilled with the gains made in the midterm elections, I know the 2020 fight is right around the corner and I’m already tired.

I volunteered at my daughters’ school almost every week. It has made me miss some of the things I loved best about teaching. But I’ve also been reminded of all the things I hated about it. I’m still transferring my credential to California as a back-up option, and I could sub right now if I wanted to (my school is desperate for subs) but for me it’s a last resort, at least right now.

Those two things took me away from my writing a lot of the time. Not having a nanny has been an adjustment, and also took me away from my writing. But by the end of the year I started to find my balance.

I spent a lot of the year revising Plunder (yes, still) and my editor is just about halfway done with the edit on it. There will be one more revision after this to strengthen the opening, but it’s almost there.

NaNoWriMo kicked me into high gear. I wrote 80k words in 30 days, which was a huge positive. This is what I’m more or less capable of when I prioritize my writing. I wrote one shitty novel that I’m not sure is worth revising, and one really solid book that is already with an editor–Lab Rats. In December I wrote the sequel to Lab Rats, which is called The Lioness and the Mouse, which is currently with my betas. While I’m waiting on feedback for that, I’ve started the third book in the series, which is currently untitled.

My only publication in 2018 was For As Long as You Need Me in Blood in the Rain 4.

A vampire who only hunts men. A war veteran with PTSD. Will she be his death or his salvation?

Read a sample from For as Long as You Need Me here.

This was a view on the vengeance trope that worked a lot better for me, and I liked the way that Sam was more aware of what was going on than he initially seemed.“–Amazon Review

What will 2019 bring? For certain, I’ll be self publishing at least the first two books in my paranormal series. The series is currently unnamed–If you’re good at naming things like a series, reach out. Lab Rats’ publication will be dependent upon how long my editor needs, how long getting a cover takes, how difficult it is to format for Kindle Unlimited, that sort of thing. The biggest hindrance to publication, though, will probably be whether or not I enter it into a contest. The contest I’m considering means I can’t pub it until the summer.

At this point my goal is stay in the paranormal lane in 2019. I will definitely be spending 2019 revising/writing books two and three in my series. The other series I’ve worked on and will continue to work on are my North Pole Chronicles–the first three stories in that series are free on my website. I plan to turn the third story (Comet 2.0) into a full length novella, and work on the sequel. Both my Shifter series and my Reindeer series feature many different pairings, so I wanted to keep control of them and self-publish.

I am tired of Plunder. I still plan to revise the start to make it stronger, but I think that this editing pass will take care of everything but fixing that opening chapter. If there is any kindness in the universe, I can send Plunder off to a traditional publisher in 2019. I know I said 2018, but at this point, the date is going to be largely driven by my editor, which is fine, even if I am sick to death of that book.

I’m definitely considering editing another anthology, but I don’t have a theme that I’m particularly interested in at the moment.

 

 

Free Story–Petticoats and Push Up Bras

Here’s a holiday gift from me to you. Petticoats and Push Up Bras was inspired by my former job as a costumed tour guide at the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum, with a sprinkle of voyeurism, and a heroine who’s worried about the imminent zombie apocalypse. It’s a few years old, but a fun little free story.

Instead of a photo of the boat—here’s a picture of me at my former job. I can’t believe it’s been twenty years since then!

I’ll be back to do a year in review between now and Jan 1. Happy holidays!

 

Petticoats and Push Up Bras

Delilah Night

 

“Dump the tea!” My voice rang out in defiance of the British and their illegal taxes.

“Into the sea!” My brave revolutionaries chanted as they followed me down the gangway to the ship.

“Dump the tea!”

“Into the sea!”

“Follow me!” My lips curved, waiting for the tourists to take the bait.

“Into the sea!” They burst out into laughter.

As I led the final tour of the day toward the ship, I flashed Jeff a saucy smile. The period costumes made most of us look frumpy, but Jeff looked like he was born to wear a vest and cravat. Throw in a convincing British accent, and he was sex on a stick. He winked in return as he moved his group from the ship to the attached floating museum.

“Welcome to the Brig Beaver,” I paused for the inevitable snickers. Please let me keep a straight face this time. Of the three ships involved in the Boston Tea Party, they chose to get a replica made of The Beaver?

Setting the stage for the events of December 16, 1773 involved a great deal of theatrical shivering and emotional rhetoric. My group of patriots got into the spirit of things, shrieking their defiance of British taxation while tossing crates of tea into the waiting harbor. Afterward, I posed for pictures with guests from Kansas, Singapore, and Poland while other guests explored the Beaver. As the clock ticked toward closing, I gently herded them off the ship, through the museum, and into the gift shop.

“All clear! Nate and Diane, you opened, so head off,” Jeff called out. “Hannah, I’ll take the museum if you’ll close up the ship? I’ve hauled those damn tea crates back up to the deck so many times today I’d rather cut the ropes than do it again.”

“Sure.”

“My savior!” Jeff fell to one knee, hand over his heart.

“Uh huh.” Amused, I shook my head at his theatrics and headed back to the Beaver.

On board, I grabbed hold of the thick ropes, and hauled the four dripping Styrofoam crates of tea up for the night. I yanked canvas tarps over the hatches and tied them down.

The lapping of water against the ship as the tide came in drowned out the ambient urban noise. Some might find it peaceful. I found the lack of honking horns and screeching sirens disquieting.

Gingerly, I descended the steep stairs down into the hull. Unlike the original Beaver, our replica had an empty hull divided into two parts by a wall of faux wooden tea crates. Near the ladder was a sleeping berth, a table with a few replica artifacts, and some interactive exhibits. Behind the crates of tea was the small cargo hold showcasing ballast stones and wall displays with more information about the events pre- and post-Tea Party.

The two light bulbs cast a miserly glow, throwing most of below decks into shadow and darkness. Brimming with tourists, the space was claustrophobic. Empty, it was cavernous and creepy. Who knew what manner of creature was waiting for me just outside the small pools of light? I immediately regretted bingewatching season one of The Walking Dead last night.

“Scurvy wench, are you still down there?”

“Be up in a second,” I yelled back, relieved that my voice was steadier than my nerves.

I was surprised to hear Jeff’s footsteps on the deck overhead. He was typically more the “you do your task, I’ll do mine” type. All the same, I was grateful to see his boots appear as he climbed down. My imagination didn’t fixate upon things that went bump in the night around him, preferring far more pleasant nocturnal activities.

“Good tour today. You’ve really nailed the accent. The guests would never know you’re the noob,” Jeff commented. “What is this, your third week?”

“Yes, thanks. I’ve been working really hard on my tour,” I smiled at him.

Jeff glanced at my wrist. “Let me give you a tip? Don’t let Andrew see you wearing a Hello Kitty watch. He’ll be an ass and lecture you that it’s not period.”

Ugh, Drew, if I hear “not period,” one more freaking time…

“Seriously? Why is he so strict? Is he going to buy me a period timepiece?” I pulled off my white cap and shook my hair free as I rolled my eyes. “Am I going to get in trouble for mascara, too? Where’s the line?”

Jeff gave me a slow once over. “Who knows what infractions you’re committing under your petticoats, m’lady? I’d be happy to give you a full inspection. I’m pretty sure that you’re wearing a bra, but I’d have to remove your corset and shift to be sure. We can catalog all the items you need to remove to ensure your authenticity.”

“Jeff, I—”

When he pressed a kiss to my neck, my words blurred into a moan. His teeth scraped my skin as he bit down gently, then laved the spot with his tongue. “I’m just trying to keep you out of trouble.”

“Sure you are,” I panted.

Jeff took me by the hand and led me behind the crates to the cargo hold. His mouth burned a path down my neck to my collarbone as his clever hands unlaced my corset.

My lips met Jeff’s hungrily as my back collided with the hull. I pushed Jeff’s tri-corn hat from his head so I could fist my hands in his thick brown hair. He parted his lips to let me explore uncharted territory, and his tongue teased mine as his hands traveled over my cotton shift.

Jeff broke the kiss. He gently pulled at the shift’s neckline. Peering down, he shook his head. “I don’t think they had blue lace bras in the Colonies,” he tsked. “No Ye Olde Felicity’s Secret for the maidens to shop at. I think I’ll need to check under your skirts as well.”

My breathing was shallow, as if I were still corseted. It was one thing to flirt and make out with Jeff, but entirely another to take it that far. I wavered, tempted by the pulsing between my legs. My relationship was on the rocks…

Footsteps on the deck above reverberated above us.

“Zombies!” I squeaked.

Jeff did a double-take, not quite stifling a snicker, “Did you just say zombies?”

Andrew’s voice echoed through the hull. “I think you’ll find this is a great location for your company party. We’ll do the full show, and then some of my actors can circulate while others serve hors d’oeuvres. This way.”

Jeff and I peered around the tea crates. Red high heels slowly descended the steps.

Jeff pulled me backwards, covering my mouth. “Shhh! There’s no reason for them to look back here. The interesting displays are out there.”

“What’s the big deal? We can just tell them we were closing up the ship,” I hissed, about to stand up.

He tugged me back down. “It’s not the first time I’ve gotten caught closing up the ship. Drew won’t believe you. C’mon, Hannah, please?”

I reconsidered. It might be embarrassing for him to get caught (again). I had bigger problems to deal with, chief among them the secret that our boss was also my boyfriend.

Drew and I had been dating for a few weeks when I’d gotten laid off from my crappy retail gig.

“Why not come work for me? You’re a history major. It would be a good fit.”

Taking the job had seemed like a great idea at the time. I could earn money and work at a job related to my major and hang out with my adorable new boyfriend. What could possibly go wrong?

The job wasn’t the problem. Doing the show was a blast. I loved making the Tea Party and the American Revolution come alive for the guests. The major drawback of the job was Andrew.

My adorable boyfriend turned out to enjoy the sound of his own voice more than anyone else’s. Worse, he was a dullard in the bedroom. I wanted to dump him, but I was worried that potential consequence of doing so was unemployment. I’d taken to praying to the Powerball Gods to free me from my dilemma. Sadly, the zombie apocalypse had better odds than hitting the jackpot.

“Will you be wearing one of those costumes? I can just picture you in tight black pants and an eye patch.”

Jeff rolled his eyes at me. “Not good at distinguishing historical events from Johnny Depp movies, is she?” he murmured in my ear.

“It’s not a pirate ship,” Drew said. “But I can threaten to make you walk the plank if you’re a bad girl.”

Gross. How fucking cheesy can you get?

“And what if I’m a good girl?” the woman purred.

Blech. You two deserve each other.

“This is like listening to terrible porn,” I whispered.

Jeff and I lay frozen behind the crates, listening to the activity on the other side. Drew and his paramour were noisy, slurpy kissers, but the sound was oddly arousing. Hearing them go at it reminded me of what Jeff’s lips had been doing to me moments earlier.

It seemed like we were going to be here for a while. I nibbled along Jeff’s jaw line to his lips. He quizzically raised an eyebrow at me. I nodded my assent. Our kisses, careful and quiet, echoed the kisses that were growing more heated at the other end of the ship.

I heard the metallic zing of a zipper. “Oh yeah, baby, take all of it,” Drew moaned.

“You have such a big cock,” she cooed. Rhythmic sucking and moaning ensued.

Such a big cock? She must be trying to get some kind of discount.

I’d been second-guessing hooking up with the hottest guy on the ship while my boyfriend was getting head from strangers? So he was just boring in bed with me? Any guilt I’d harbored before their arrival was now gone.

Fuck Drew.

I felt Jeff harden against me.

No, I decided, fuck Jeff.

“Are you wearing period underwear?” I questioned Jeff softly. Carefully, I slipped a hand between us. My fingers unlaced his trousers and slid inside. “Hmm…I think not.”

“I would. But going commando. In these. Would chafe. My favorite. Body parts,” his staccato whispers burst forth with each thrust of his hips against my hand.

“Hypocrite. I’ll have to give you ten lashes for that,” I murmured. “We’ll have to see if the cat-o-nine-tails on display really works.”

Jeff buried his face in my neck and moaned as his thrusts sped.

“Fuck. Don’t stop, baby!” Drew moaned. “Suck it!”

“Hannah,” Jeff groaned into my ear. “Suck it.”

I slithered down his body, careful not to bump the tea crates that kept us hidden. Freeing his cock from distinctly not-period red boxer briefs, I smiled in anticipation. I caught Jeff’s gaze and without looking away, l licked his cock from root to tip. My tongue made lazy circles around the head.

Jeff kept mouthing the word “please,” his expression growing more and more agonized. When I deep-throated him, he grabbed his tricorn hat off the floor and bit down on it to keep from making any sound.

“Christ, Hannah,” Jeff mumbled around the felt of his hat. “Your accent shouldn’t be the only oral talent on your resume.”

I heard the sound of things falling to the floor. “Up on the table, gorgeous. You’re not going to need that. No, leave the heels on, it’s wicked hot,” Drew said.

“It’s a front-clasp bra,” the woman instructed. “Mmmm, yes… Do that.”

“Come, here,” Jeff pulled me astride him. Taking his cues from the other couple, Jeff untied my shift, slipping it from my shoulders. Discarded, it pooled at my waist. “I see yours is not a front-clasp bra” he breathed in my ear. Jeff executed the kind of one-handed bra removal that only someone who’d had plenty of practice could manage.

My nipples puckered in the cool air of the hold. Jeff leaned forward to take one into his mouth. The warm tip of his tongue flicked my nipple as he sucked. His fingers tugged gently at my other nipple.

I pulled my skirts up. My pink thong was the only barrier between us.

“Leave the Doc Martens on…it’s wicked hot,” Jeff mocked Drew, causing me to stifle a laugh.

Jeff’s hand pulled my lacey excuse for underwear aside. His fingers waltzed over my clit. Biting my lips to keep quiet, I rocked my hips against him.

“Is it playing voyeur that’s got you so hot, or is it the risk of getting caught playing hide the musket?” Jeff’s breath was hot against my earlobe. His cock was hard as a length of iron against my thigh.

Ooh, that’s so good, Drew!” the girl moaned. “Fuck me!”

“Fuck me,” I echoed urgently.

“Good thing I was a boy scout.” Jeff reached into a knothole and pulled out a condom.

My eyes widened in surprise. There was a difference between hooking up on the ship and doing it so frequently that he kept supplies down here. By the time I had finished processing what he’d just seemingly pulled out of thin air (or, more accurately, thick wood) Jeff was repositioning me astride him. I hesitated for a moment.

“You’re the hottest chick I’ve ever had,” Drew grunted as the slap of skin on skin reverberated throughout the hull.

Now that’s just uncalled for.

Impaling myself on Jeff’s cock, I decided to give him a better ride than Drew had ever gotten from me.

“I doubt he’s had much opportunity for comparison,” Jeff murmured.

If only you knew, Jeff.

I moved cautiously, trying not to create the same loud noises giving away every thrust by the other couple. I circled my hips, pretending I was a stripper convincing a client that the champagne room would be worth the money.

“Do you wish I had you out there, bent over the captain’s table? Above deck, tied to the mast? A history major like you would probably love to get off in front of the Sam Adams portrait,” Jeff hissed as I took us higher.

“Why not go crazy and bend me over the display with the original tea chest in it?” I panted back, hips rocking.

“Christ, Hannah. Every time I’m in the museum from now on, that’s all I’m going to see.”

“Good.”

We were no longer completely silent, but the other couple seemed oblivious to us.

The woman’s moans from the other side of the boxes were starting to take on a bored tone. “Drew, that’s so good. Come for me, baby.”

That’s what I say when I want him to finish so I can masturbate once he’s gone home. Finding out that it’s more fizzle than sizzle with Drew, are we, mystery lady?

Jeff continued to describe crazy scenes. The gift shop’s contents, which has seemed like a jumbled mishmash of stereotypical souvenirs, now sounded positively pornographic.

“Want to hear more?” Jeff teased, pausing in his description.

“Yes, please,” I begged, eager for more.

Exactly what kind of mind did you need to come up with the idea to do that with a tea kettle? More to the point, how can I convince him to do it to me?

“Drew, yes, please!” She was losing enthusiasm fast.

“I’m going to come,” I whispered. “Cover my mouth, but keep talking.”

Jeff was mid-soliloquy describing all the places on the site he could tie me up using only a logo sweatshirt when my orgasm hit. It was the kind of typhoon whose monstrous waves were powerful enough to break apart the Beaver. I couldn’t help it, I moaned loud enough that Jeff’s hand didn’t adequately muffle it.

“Yeah, you love it, don’t you?” Drew groaned.

Thank God, he thought it was her.

“I can’t take much more! Come, please!” Her tone was taking on the same level of desperation the voyagers aboard the S. S. Minnow felt when their three hour tour turned into a multi-year stay on a desert island.

“I can’t take much more, Han. Can I come?” Jeff begged. I nodded enthusiastically.

“Baby!” Drew howled his orgasm.

“Hannah,” Jeff cried against my neck. I felt his body spasm as he came, and his head fell forward to rest upon my shoulder.

Jeff and I were still breathing heavily when Drew spoke.

“Fuck, that was hot. C’mon, I’ll take you up to my office,” Drew said. “We can sign the contracts and watch the playback from the security cameras.”

“Security cameras?” the woman sounded doubtful.

“Security cameras?” I gasped.

“I put in two after I caught one of my guys down here with chicks like, I dunno, six or seven times,” he laughed.

Jeff flinched. “Fuckfuckfuckfuck.”

“Wicked big pussyhound. He liked the captain’s table and behind the boxes over there. He must’ve found out because it’s been like three weeks and no action. But thanks to him we can see our own little video.”

I thought about the surprise waiting for him on the tape and cringed.

Hey, Zombies? You can start the apocalypse any time now.