Copyright © 2017 by JJ Knight. All rights reserved.
I never have been very traditional.
Case in point number one: I started coloring my hair strawberry blond when I was sixteen.
Mother didn’t know. She’d have skinned me alive. I was very tricky about it, pretending to have a hat fetish. She didn’t see my full head of hair for almost a year, when I was a senior and she couldn’t do diddly squat to punish me as I had already been accepted to junior college.
Daddy said he liked it anyway, and he’s the one who always handed over the car keys. What does it matter what color your hair is anyway? Gramma always says it’s what inside that matters. And I am loyal and kind and have zero problems with anybody’s way of living. Gramma taught me all that too, even when we sometimes felt full-on surrounded by jerks and cheats.
But strawberry blond is my color. The darker kind. I'm too lazy for platinum. We are L’Oreal soulmates. Till death do I part from my squeezy chemical bottle.
Case in point number two: I slept with my first boyfriend at age fifteen.
Okay, I know. You think I was too young. You’d probably be right. But boys were just so…how do I explain it? More than interesting. More than fun. Intoxicating. Necessary.
I became a serial monogamist right off. I learned never to jump one ship until another was in the harbor. So I never cheated, no way. But there might have been a rather narrow window in between them every once in a while.
I like to be passionate, both in bed and at the microphone.
Case in point number three: I want to be a country music singer.
I’m aware that I’d probably get more fame as a pop star. But country music is in my bones, growing up in Tennessee. Love gone wrong. Oh that “Lonesome Me.” “Tear in My Beer.” I like the songs with a powerful gut punch.
“He Stopped Loving Her Today” makes me cry for an hour every single dang time. Yeah. Google it. It’s a tear jerker in the hands of George Jones. I’ve also heard Dolly do it. LeeAnn did it. All good.
I may or may not have recorded a version for YouTube.
Despite my aspirations, I’m twenty-five and work as a travel agent. It’s a good gig, as I more or less set my hours, work on commission, and can use my travel discounts to go to auditions, which isn’t easy since I live in Miami now.
Plus I get big perks on cruises, and I always choose the ones for singles. Everybody hooks up in every direction there, and nobody blinks an eye when we don’t even exchange last names.
Karaoke is standard fare on these ships, and I know if I can get up there and sing a soulful rendition of “Crazy,” I’m going to have my choice of men that night. Works every time.
Does this make me a tramp? Maybe. I don’t know. I like to think of it as sexual agency. Boys have always been able to sow their oats.
I just planted a couple of fields of my own.
All this is to say is that when hunkalicious in jeans and cowboy boots walks into our office to book a cruise, I am all over it. My coworker Sam, who just finished her transition to the Sam she was meant to be, sees him saunter in and instantly waves him over to me. Sam likes girls regardless of her gender. We can generally eyeball which direction to send a walk-in within three steps of the door.
We refer the retired couples back to Janet. She loves helping them find bargain tours with the least amount of walking. Sam and I are hopeless at those.
We’re all about the adventure, the perfect pairing of the dream vacation with the ideal package.
And I’m already eying this guy’s package.
I cut him a shy smile. Sam may have sent him to me, but I did see her check out his Wranglers. She might like girls, but she’s got eyes.
And that butt is gold.
I stand up and hold out a hand, tilting my head so a dangling earring will peep out from my hair. I’ve practiced this look in the mirror. I want to dazzle the man I’m interested in. There is no room to be coy. Nothing about me translates as hard to get.
Case in point number four: I’m easy.
But you’ve figured that out by now. Hopefully you’re not judging me. Because by the time this story is done, I’ll have done a lot more than just sing a few songs and bang a few boys.
But back to the hunk.
He drops into the chair. His smile is slow and full of more promise than a TV talent show. Which I’ve auditioned for, three times. Those lips would have made a drag queen cry. You could kiss every part of them for the better part of an hour and not cover all the territory.
Despite being ready to take him on my lunch break, and dinner, and breakfast, I manage to sit up straight and ask him what sort of trip he’s thinking about. All the while imagining how that sandy brown hair would feel running through my fingertips.
I get another slow smile. God, I need an air conditioner in January. Of course, here on the ocean I’d need one anyway. But you get my drift. The back of my neck is as hot as the back of his jeans.
“The Blue Sapphire Yacht site says you’re an authorized agency,” he says, and his voice is just as sexy as his lips. Low, rumbly, like a tractor in a field.
I’m already naked in the hay with him while he mentions that Blue Sapphire Yachts was hard to track down. Their online presence is a little short on information.
And with reason. Their cruises start at ten thousand dollars.
I size him up. Dusty boots. Wranglers. Totally need to peruse those again. A half-buttoned blue checked flannel over a white T-shirt. Nice hair, but not anything high-end in cut or style.
No watch. The phone sticking out of his pocket is a run-of-the-mill iPhone, the previous version, not the newest.
He looks pretty normal. Although he definitely works out. That means he has a job that encourages it or else he has leisure time. Access to a gym or equipment at home.
Still, I’m not seeing $50,000 cruise material. And that’s the starter package.
“They are pricey,” I say. I tug out a brochure for a more reasonable option. “Any particular reason why you chose them? You can get really nice cruises for much less.” I open the tri-fold to show a lovely ship on a deep blue sea.
It’s a singles cruise. One I’m thinking of taking in a couple months.
But he dashes my hopes.
“No, I’m pretty specific,” he says. “I need the Blue Sapphire Yacht Cruise starting three weeks from now sailing from Miami to Cuba.”
“Okay,” I say. The brochure goes back in the rack, and I turn to my computer. “Let me see what their schedule is. Three weeks out isn’t long. It might be booked.”
He nods, a flash of doubt crossing his handsome face. I’m not opposed to sitting here with him across the desk a little longer, even if I seriously doubt he can afford a Blue Sapphire Yacht. I’ll have to figure out a way to present the figure to him without embarrassing him when he realizes how far off the mark he is.
Of course, who knows. Maybe he won a lottery. Or inherited some cash. And it’s not unheard of for people to live way below their means or to hide their wealth.
It’s just that rich people don’t come in person to book a Blue Sapphire. They have assistants or secretaries do that.
And newly rich people wouldn’t have heard of them. Even as an authorized agency, we’re not allowed to mention them unless the customer talks about them first.
Blue Sapphire Yachts doesn’t advertise. There’s no way to know unless you just…know. When someone takes you on one. Or a company sends you there. It’s a secret passed by word of mouth. Like a kiss.
A hot kiss on a pair of lips made for sinnin’.
“You okay?” the man asks.
Damn, I’m staring.
“Just waiting for the numbers to crunch,” I say, swinging back to my screen. Of course the numbers crunched instantaneously, but people are always blaming their slowness on their computers. I do it at least twice a day.
I scan the screen. There are six Blue Sapphire Yacht cruises involving Cuba in the next month.
“I’ve found several,” I say. “Was it five days? Seven? Ten?”
He frowns. “I’m not sure. I heard them mention Grand Cayman.”
I wonder who “them” are. Maybe he’s going with friends as hot as himself. I imagine being surrounded by Wranglers and several of his hot buddies, and my face flushes.
“That helps,” I manage to say. The five-day boat doesn’t stop in Grand Cayman. It has to be either the seven-day one or the ten. I hit print on both.
“I’ve found two,” I tell him. I lean down to pull the print outs from the tray below. His eyes go where I’m hoping they will, into the cleavage that pops as I bend.
I’m sooo glad I wore the wrap around dress today. It fits like a dream, and I can conceal or reveal as I choose.
This guy warrants a reveal.
“How did you hear about Blue Sapphire Yachts?” I ask as I lay the printouts on the table. “They don’t advertise.”
His gaze skitters down my body and onto the papers. “I have a business connection taking this one. He suggested I look into it.”
“Oh.” So maybe he is all right. This is a corporate expense. Except nothing about Wranglers says business. Unless he’s getting up in my business.
“Well, here are the two in that time frame.” I turn the pages around. “Blue Sapphire Yachts are very exclusive. This one is mostly booked, but it looks like I can get you on.” I point to the seven-day cruise.
“This one is oddly open.” I turn it back around. “This itinerary was just created a few days ago.”
“That’s it,” he says quickly. “That’s the one. I want on it.”
My eyebrows lift. I can see Sam watching us, probably now regretting sending Wranglers to me. The commission on this one cruise is what I make in a week. Two weeks, when it’s slow.
I circle the price in my pen. “This work, though?” It’s six figures. Low six figures, but still, six.
He hesitates. “Can I put a down payment on it and pay the rest in a week?”
“Sure,” I say. “But if you don’t cover it, you forfeit the down payment.”
He nods slowly. “I’ll have it. I have money coming.”
I was right about not being easy rich. But now he’s got me curious. I glance at Sam, who quickly turns like she wasn’t listening in.
I lean forward. “You sure? I can get you lots of nice places for less.”
His eyes drop to the V of my neckline and rest there a moment. I haven’t even displayed this angle on purpose. But he seems to be enjoying the view, so I keep it there. My boobs are one of the few parts of my body I’m not shy about. Hell, I’m not shy about anything, but maybe self-conscious is the word. I only like my belly when I’m lying flat on my back.
And my thighs are hopeless.
But back to Wranglers.
“No, this is the one,” he says. He has to wrestle his eyes back to my face. “You book many of these cruises?”
I shrug, and the movement drags his attention back to my cleavage. “There are only three authorized Blue Sapphire agencies in Miami,” I say. “The company has very particular requirements.”
His eyes come back to mine now, inquisitive. “And what are those?”
“I’ll have to fill out a background screen on you,” I say. “And take a photo and go over some of their policies. We’re trained special for them.”
Now his smile is lazy. “When do you take my picture and ask me questions?”
Okay, my lady bits are starting to sizzle. “I’m sure a gentleman traveler such as yourself has a favorite restaurant?”
Yes, friends, I just invited myself on a date.
I do this often.
He sits back, scrutinizing me. “Is there a high rate of denial on this screening?” he asks.
And I get it. He’s playing me too. He thinks I can get him in. But I’m super crazy curious, and he’s the hottest one-night stand I’ve spotted in a while. So I’ll go along.
“The price is a pretty high barrier already,” I say. “But I’m sure there are some unsavory ways of earning money that they prefer to screen out. The boats are small, and the clients are interested in protection and privacy.”
He relaxes a bit. “That makes sense, actually. So I suppose I should pick you up for this interrogation after work?”
Now I’m smiling. “I get off at six,” I say. It’s four actually, but I want to run home and prep a little for this one. Some waxing. Some spritzing.
He stands. “Then I’ll return at six.”
I hop up from my chair, aware that my boobs get a good sway on as I do. “I’m Vivienne Carter,” I say. “And you are?” I hold out my hand.
He extends a strong hand and accepts mine. “Brady,” he says, letting his voice fall into a touch of a drawl. He’s a Southern boy but can hide the accent when he wants. Interesting. “I’m Brady Wilson.”
He lifts my hand, but instead of kissing the back of it, he turns it over and presses his lips to my wrist.
My pulse jumps like crazy.
“I look forward to tonight,” he says and lets me go.
Oh yes, so do I.
2: Brady the Bull Rider
The travel agent doesn’t suspect a thing.
I get to my truck and climb into the cab. She was one sweet little number and flirty as all get out. I haven’t saddled up with a girl like that in six states. Maybe I shouldn’t have come on so strong, but she seemed into it.
Besides, I need her. I have to get on that cruise.
I don’t have anything to hide really. But swinging a hundred thou on a cruise will set my bank account all the way back to my early bull-riding days, when the winnings were small and I had to sleep in my truck to get by.
Actually I’ve been sleeping in it anyway, driving to Miami straight from Houston, stopping only when I flat out couldn’t make another mile without running into a bar ditch.
I check the clock on the dash. I have all day until she gets off. I need to combine some accounts, pool my funds, and call that rodeo office in Nashville to find out where my last check is.
Fool’s Errand. That was the bull in Nashville that put me over the top. And in the nick of time. I had no idea a chance to meet with a major sponsor was going to happen so fast. I’d been driving the wrong way, thinking I could find him in Houston. Thankfully, I’d overheard a conversation at a ranch where I was assessing a bull that the guy I wanted was going on this cruise.
His name is Adolfo Felini, and he manages one of the royal casinos in Monte Carlo. He’s been looking for American sports stars to endorse beyond the Formula One racers that Monaco famously started.
I feel like bull riding is a perfect opportunity for that, and I’ve been ready to make a steady gig. I’m pushing thirty, and there’s only so much tossing into the dirt a man’s body should have to take. If I can get in with this Felini while I’m still a hot commodity on the circuit, we can parlay my dust crunching into training, endorsement deals, and I can be calling some shots myself at the major rodeos.
All the bureaucrats who looked down on the riders drawing the crowds will have to kiss my ass for a change.
Since the rodeos started getting televised, my purses have gone up. I began chasing this dream, and I’m willing to bet three years’ savings that I can convince Felini that I’m his man.
It just takes getting on the cruise. I’ve tried a dozen other ways to get an appointment with him, but every door has been shut in my face.
Ten days on the water will give me time.
I make my calls, get some grub, and tool around Miami until it’s time to head back to the travel agency.
Vivienne Carter. She was one beautiful woman. Her hair was the color of a sunset on a wheat field. Her eyes danced, and that mouth was made for kissing.
I’d paid particular attention to those breasts, though. She wanted me to look. I could see it heating her up. And I had no problem with politely obliging. I’ve peeled back that dress in my mind a hundred times since this morning.
If I get really lucky, that would be exactly the cherry on this ice cream sundae of a day.
I wonder about this screening she has to do. Maybe she made it up. I went over the Blue Sapphire Yacht web site again on my phone earlier. It’s two pages total. One nondescript landing screen with a picture of a boat and the name of the company. If you click on it, you go to a list of authorized agencies.
There are only ten. All in port towns, like they only want you booking if you can present yourself in person.
Vivienne said she needed to take my picture. Damn, they are tougher nuts than the TSA.
Maybe she’ll let me return the favor. Imagining a sweet parting image of her delectable naked body on my phone gets me at half mast as I pull up to the glass front of the travel agency.
Cool your jets, Brady. Last thing I want to do is get my signals crossed and scare off the ticket onto this cruise to my future. I’ll have to play it loose and easy and do only as much as the lady wants.
There’s just one car in the lot now, a tiny white Chevy that has seen better days. The lights are mostly out inside, but I can see her. She has a desk lamp on, and it brightens her up like the moon on a clear night.
She’s talking to someone, maybe on speaker. She doesn’t have a phone to her ear. Or it’s a Bluetooth too small for me to see. No one else seems to be inside.
When my dick is back in order, I head to the door. I don’t think Vivienne has seen me. Since I can look in, the glass would be reflection for her. She’s walking toward the back of the room. Sashaying, really, her hips swinging. Maybe there’s music playing.
All the other desks are empty and dark. I tug on the door, half expecting it to be locked.
But it opens easily. As I pass through, Vivienne disappears into a room in the back. She leaves her door open, though, and at first I think I’m hearing a radio.
The voice is clear as a bell, soulful and sweet. I’m not familiar with the song, but it’s about finding love and wishing it would last.
It starts to fade, and I glance around, looking for the source.
But then it pauses, there’s a laugh, and it starts up again.
And I realize, it’s the girl. She’s singing.
The verse starts up again, growing louder as she walks back to the front room. She halts instantly when she sees me standing by the door.
“Hey,” I say.
She presses her palm to her mouth, her face pinking up. “I didn’t know you were here!”
I hold out my hands. “Six, on the nose.”
She points at the clock. “Five minutes till,” she says. She pulls herself together and drops her hand. “I like a guy who’s early.”
“Then you’re going to love me,” I say. “And you’re an amazing singer.”
“Thanks,” she says.
My eyes take her in. She’s still in the green dress from earlier, only now I can see it all without the desk in between us. Just a simple tie holds it together. I picture tugging it loose and threaten to bulge out my jeans again.
She has this tiny waist and nice hips that fill out the dress. The skirt falls just to the knee, and curvy calves are pushed up by shoes that force me to tighten my jaw to stay in control. They’re jet green and at least five inches high. Her coral-tipped toes peep out a little hole. I want to worship very inch.
The image of her naked in those shoes becomes my new life goal. I have to see it. Have to.
“You look beautiful,” I say. Even though it’s the same dress, I get the sense she added a little makeup and fixed her hair. I don’t remember it being quite so perfect. “You have to close up tonight?”
She nods. Her lids droop a little, showing off her eyelashes. “I have the paperwork for you.” She turns to her desk and bends over, picking up the pages.
Sweet Jesus. The skirt hikes considerably, revealing a long expanse of her thighs. I’m desperately interested in fitting in behind her and tearing whatever panties she’s concealing right off her perfect ass.
Or maybe she doesn’t have any. I have to force that thought aside or I’ll be full mast in five seconds.
She turns around. “I have it all right here,” she says, tucking the pages into a shiny folder with the agency logo on it. “We can fill it out at dinner.”
“Do you have to do the picture here?” I ask, looking around for one of those pull-down screens, like at the DMV.
“Oh no. They aren’t picky about it. I just have to certify that it’s you.”
I nod. She picks up a green purse and slides it to her shoulder. “You know your way around town?”
“I’m not from Miami,” I say as I hold the door open for her.
She turns and locks it from the outside. “What do you like? Mexican? Cuban? Italian? Barbecue?”
Vivienne on a platter, I want to say, but remind myself of the goal. The cruise. “I’m easy. Probably not barbecue, though. I can’t imagine Miami has anything on Texas for that.”
“It would definitely be different,” she says. “There’s a great pizza place nearby. Real wood-fired stuff. Great wine.” She frowns. “And beer. You seem like a beer guy.”
I laugh a little. “I can swing both ways,” I say.
This makes her laugh, a ringing sound like a bell. “Good to know.”
I open her door and she climbs in. My truck has a lift kit but nothing crazy. Still, she has to bend down to duck inside, and her ass is right in front of my face. God, she’s killing me.
When she’s settled, I close the door and head around. This is going to be one tough night keeping my hands off her until I get a definitive go. I’m hoping for it.
It’s a short ride to the restaurant, and we get settled at a table right away. She gets her wine. I get beer. We laugh again.
Once the pizza is ordered, she spreads the pages out. It’s been fairly businesslike so far, and this helps cool my jets.
“All right,” she says. “Start working on this part with your standard name, address, and basics. You got a passport?”
“Yeah,” I say, reaching behind to pull it from my back pocket. Thank goodness for that bull market in Mexico that forced me to apply for one. Fun one, too. They raise incredible bulls there, and I was asked to assess some for a rodeo in Tucson.
She pulls a pen from her purse and passes it to me.
“So what do you do for a living?” she asks.
“This part of the screening?” I ask, giving her a grin.
“A little,” she says. “Just making sure your cash crop isn’t opium.”
“I’m a professional bull rider.”
“No shit!” she says, then claps her hand to her face. “My mama would wash my mouth out with soap.”
“I like a girl who says what she means,” I tell her.
“I have a potty mouth,” she says. “I try to make it past the first date before I let the f-bombs fly.”
“Do you usually succeed?” I ask.
She shrugs. “Not cussing or getting past the first date?”
She looks at me over her glass of wine, her eyebrows raised.
Is she saying men dump her after a single date? Or that she dumps them?
“I’m pretty flexible on either,” I say, putting down my pen.
We look at each other for long moments, and I have to admit, it’s intense. Her eyes take in my face and my arms and shoulders. When she gets back to my eyes, I see that she’s interested. I wish we didn’t have a damn table between us.
She must feel the same, because she scoots over in the booth. “Come over to my side,” she says.
My mama taught me to give a lady what she wants. I move around and sit beside her.
This is as close as we’ve been, and I get a good whiff of something subtle and sweet, like jasmine and vanilla. It’s heaven. I pick up a piece of her pale hair, kissed with red. “This is the most glorious color I’ve ever seen.”
She leans in, and I see we’re not going to waste time. Her hand is on my thigh, and I meet her halfway. Her lips are soft and yielding, and I feel ready to devour her by the time I slide my tongue into her warm mouth.
And that’s it. I already know she will be mine.