My new novel, Lyfers, will be released Tuesday, February 9. Until then, here’s a preview!
“Ahoy, Cruisers! Welcome to the third annual 4 Lyfe Cruise for the Fans! As you embark on this four-day, three-night journey, you will make memories to last a lifetime, spelled with a Y of course. We hope you enjoy your stay on the Great White Pelican Cruise Line, and please let a crew member know if we can assist you in any way. I’m sorry, but we cannot have Rusty delivered to your cabin. Please stay to the right as you ascend the gangway. We will not leave anyone behind, don’t worry. Once you are settled in your cabins, please report back to the promenade for the mandatory safety briefing. I’m your cruise director, and let me be the first to say, welcome aboard!” The loudspeaker crackled as the voice cut out.
Once all the passengers designated for that safety demonstration group had gathered on the promenade, a crew member took his place in front of the antsy crowd to begin his spiel. Frankie stood on her tiptoes to try to look over the mass of people.
“Frankie.” Her friend Tammy poked her in the back. “What are you doing?”
“I’m looking for the guys. The cruise director said this safety demonstration is mandatory, right?”
“Ooh, good thinking.” Her other friend Cheyenne also lifted her heels up off of her pink flip flops to scan the crowd.
“They probably got the talk before everyone else got on the boat. Or maybe they’re with one of the other groups.”
“Tammy, you make too much sense sometimes,” said Cheyenne. She rocked back on her heels and lifted her wavy blonde hair to fan her neck. Her pale face was tinged green.
“You OK, Chey?” Tammy used her hands to fan her friend’s face.
“Aren’t you originally from Texas? The heat shouldn’t be too bad. This is what I’m used to. It reminds me of where I grew up in Puerto Rico.” Frankie inhaled the sea air. “I miss it.”
The side of Tammy’s lip curled. “I don’t know how you guys did it. I’m glad Michigan gets winters. Don’t get me wrong, I like summer, but I’d need a break.”
Cheyenne shook her head and leaned her hands on her knees. “It’s not the heat. It’s the movement.”
“Oh wait, I have Dramamine. Sorry, I forgot to give you some. I took a couple on the way here.” Tammy tucked her chin-length brown hair behind her ear and lifted a couple pills from the small zippered clutch around her wrist.
“Bless you. You’re a lifesaver.” The Texas accent had not fully disappeared. Cheyenne tipped her head back and gulped both pills down.
“There’s Rusty!” Frankie pointed.
Cheyenne snapped up, and her eyes popped open. “Where?” She wiped the beads of sweat from her forward and ran her hand through her long hair. Frankie burst out laughing, and Cheyenne swatted at her. “You B.”
Frankie covered her mouth to stifle her laughs. “You can say the word. Your kids aren’t here.”
The cruise director greeted the crowd, and the expressions of most of the cruisers glazed as he went on about all the safety regulations on the ship. “I’ve invited a special guest to finish off the safety demonstration.”
Frankie’s heart jumped just like it did every time she saw one of her five favorite guys in the world. Well, besides her husband and son.
A few more heads turned in his direction, but the more oblivious of the crowd kept their gaze on the rolling sea or on their cell phones to take advantage of the last precious minutes of signal. Screams erupted from the front left of the crowd first when bad boy Markus jogged up the four steps onto the platform with the cruise director. Before the shrieks died down, Markus swung a megaphone in front of his mouth. “Are you all paying attention to my friend here? There will be a test.” He dropped his arm with the megaphone to his side and took a mock aggressive stance with his chin jutted out and his biceps engaged with his free hand in a loose fist. “The first rule of the 4 Lyfe cruise is there are no rules.”
He waited for the ebb and flow of the excited screams until he held up two fingers. “The second rule is that you have to have fun.”
At the back of the crowd, Tammy nudged Frankie. “I thought he said there were no rules.”
Frankie, with her camera held high above her head, shrugged. “Hey, no one said Markus was the smart one. But he sure is sexy.”
Markus had a life jacket slung around one of his arms but didn’t bother looping his arm through the other side. “But seriously, folks. Safety first. Now who’s ready to get this party started? I hope to see you lovely people on the lido deck in a half hour for our kickoff concert.” The blare of the megaphone made Tammy throw her hands over her ears. Still hunched over, Cheyenne made a tiny circular movement with her finger in a weak display of solidarity for the party that was about to commence. Her face had turned from greenish to pale. “Is Markus still there?” Her voice wavered.
“No, he left,” said Frankie. “Where’d he get a life jacket anyway? I never even saw one on this ship last year.”
“It’s in the closet in our cabin,” said Tammy matter-of-factly.
“We have to get ready for the show.” Cheyenne tried to stand but crumpled back down in a heap.
Tammy grabbed her arm while Frankie held onto the other one. “Maybe you should skip this one.”
“Yeah, that might be for the best.”
“No way, you can’t miss the first show!” said Frankie. She adjusted Cheyenne’s arm over her shoulder so that it wasn’t tugging on her hair.
Tammy shot her a look over Cheyenne’s head.
“Maybe the Dramamine will kick in by then.” Cheyenne’s voice was shaky and unconvincing.
“Hopefully,” said Frankie. “This is supposed to be our mom’s weekend away. We have to make the most of it.”
“We will,” said Tammy. “We already saw Markus. It’s starting out pretty good already.”
Frankie heaved a sigh. “Yeah, I guess. But I still hope you can come, Chey.”
Cheyenne coughed and freed her arm from Frankie to cover her mouth. “Yeah, me too.”