Fellow Etopian author Sue Swift has a new book out and, although it’s a departure from our usual genre chez Tris, I asked her to let us have a look at it. Over to Sue!
Sherry, Baby (Etopia Press)
The cruise from hell…
Gen X meets Agatha Christie on the high seas of the Bermuda Triangle when Sherry Case, gofer for the battling bigwigs in the family-owned firm Genesplice, arranges for a team-building cruise aboard the yacht Swashbuckler. However, the mismatched group of passengers feuds even before the yacht has left the harbor.
A rogue wave, faltering navigational instruments and a trio of sharks continue to challenge Sherry and her new lover, the yacht’s Captain Freeman. But Free and Sherry aren’t fazed until a passenger turns up dead in her locked cabin. The vicious murder throws the ship, its crew and passengers into panic. Who could the killer be? Suspects and motives abound.
Ordinary twenty-somethings thrown into an extraordinary situation, Sherry and Free must solve the mystery, defeat the myriad dangers of the triangle, and reach land before the villain can kill them.
Excerpt from Chapter Three
Sherry eyed the metal rungs soldered to the outside of the wheelhouse, deciding that they looked simple and sturdy enough for her to negotiate. She climbed up and found Free slouched on a built-in bench, smoking a hand rolled cigarette. A beer was balanced on the railing next to him. He offered her the cigarette.
“What is it?” she asked.
“A spliff. Try it.”
She sucked on the end, pulling smoke into her mouth. She coughed. “What’s in it?”
“Jamaican and tobacco.”
“Oh.” Taking a chance that the mixture wouldn’t sear her throat, she drew a hit deep into her lungs. She let the smoke out slowly, waiting for the marijuana to calm her. She hoped she wouldn’t get the munchies. She’d had a good diet day, though it had been tough. Chaz was a crazy culinary genius who could destroy her body singlehandedly.
Free knocked on the floor—which was, she realized, the ceiling of the bridge—and a hand holding another bottle of beer thrust out of one of the wheelhouse’s open windows. Simmons, she guessed, engaging in a routine familiar to both men. Free handed the beer to her and, in a surprisingly amicable silence, she and Free finished the smoke and sipped their beers.
Finally he spoke. “Quite a scene, down at dinner.” He tossed the roach over the side of the boat.
She watched the tiny red ash disappear into the roiling water flowing past the yacht. “Yes, they have their spats.”
“What does Blair Armstrong have on Dr. Rankin?”
“What do you mean?”
He hesitated. “When I went outside, she seemed to be threatening him with something. He almost went for her throat.”
If Free had wanted to know what Blair had said to Nathan, why hadn’t he asked her? Sherry hadn’t imagined their conversation on deck, but didn’t feel comfortable bringing up the subject. If Free had a private chat with Blair, it was his business, not hers. So she said, “Nathan? Hmmm. That’s strange.”
“Most of the time, nothing ruffles Nathan. He’s one of those people who can shut out the world.”
“Absent minded scientist type?”
“He doesn’t look the part.”
She smiled with satisfaction. “No, he doesn’t. But Nathan and Blair are cousins, so I bet they know a lot about each other. They’ve been fighting for months about the direction of Nathan’s research.”
“So what’s wrong with Rankin’s research?”
“Nothing. He’s bioengineered guppies to live in chlorinated water. He wants to create additional species we can sell to swimming pool owners who want to swim with the fishies.”
“That’s why I asked you to plan some snorkeling on this cruise.”
“Oh, yeah. I’ll take you to some nice snorkeling spots. What do you think of Nona and Orlando?”
She laughed. “They’re perfect. I can’t believe we haven’t seen them satirized on Comedy Central.”
“So your Board of Directors thinks that Hippy and Dippy can teach Philip, Blair, and Nathan to make nice?”
They both laughed.
“And Blair seems to have brought her private agenda,” Sherry said. Nathan usually spent most of his time in his lab, using assistants to keep Blair at bay. Here, Blair could pressure him constantly about her fertility, which everyone at Genesplice knew was her fixation.
“Hell, everyone on this trip has a private agenda.”
Sherry rubbed her cheeks, hoping to hide her guilty flush from Free.
He asked, “So what’s your game? I noticed that you and the good Dr. Rankin seemed pretty chummy.”
She hated the way her face gave away everything she thought or felt. “He should be.”
“Have you slept with him yet?” Free’s tone was casual.
She glared at him. “You have no right to ask that question.”
“Don’t get your panties in a bundle. If anyone’s playing musical beds, the captain and crew need to know in case of emergencies.”
“Oh. Well, we have.”
He cocked a brow at her. “You don’t sound all head-over-heels to me. Is he good in the sack?”
She nearly fell off the bench. “That’s none of your business!”
“Okay, he’s lousy. So why do you bother?”
Whoa. After maybe fifteen seconds of analyzing Sherry and Nathan’s relationship, Captain Freeman had nailed her to the wall, defining the issue in a nutshell. Nathan was as single-minded in pursuit of orgasms as he was in pursuit of his scientific goals, and after he got what he wanted in bed, he was done.
Regardless of whether or not Sherry had gotten what she wanted or needed.
Crap. She didn’t want to discuss this with Free, did she? Why would he care?
This was one of the strangest conversations Sherry had ever experienced, even while under the influence of multiple substances. But the pot had made her a little loose and chatty, so she said, “I care about Nathan, but—”
“He doesn’t ring your chimes.” Free’s voice was rough.
She blew out a breath. Tipping her head back, she regarded the stars. “He’s my best chance.”
“Your best chance at what?”
“To get out of the hole I’m in. My job stinks. I can’t do anything else. I need to get married, and fast.”
“So what’s your hurry? Pretty girl like you ought to be playing the field.”
Sherry wondered if Free meant playing with him. She said, “I’m nearly thirty. Washed up. Getting old. If I can’t find a secure situation soon, I’m toast.”
“Why don’t you get a better job? These jerk brains treat you like garbage. You know, there isn’t enough money in the world to make me put up with these people for any longer than this cruise. I don’t know how you do it.”
“I can’t get a better job.” Fury, shame, and sorrow made her spit out the words. “I barely crawled through high school.”
“I don’t believe that. You’re not stupid.”
“Yes, I am. I was diagnosed with a learning disability when I was nine. My mother told me that my face was my fortune, and I’d better marry well. Nathan’s my best chance.”
Free started to laugh, then guffaw. “I’ve never heard such a crock of shit in my entire life.”
“It’s true.” She heard the bitterness in her voice, but she didn’t care what Free thought.
“You want to be Nathan Rankin’s trophy wife? Come on. You can do more than type and screw.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve watched you. You handle a group of very difficult people with tact and aplomb.”
“Aplomb?” She turned that over in her mind.
“Yeah. Aplomb. What about the poofters?”
“Poofters?” Free’s change of subject momentarily startled Sherry. “Oh, Philip and his latest fling. Philip can be as mouthy as Blair, but he’s really a fangless snake. Slimy but harmless. Greg is just his meal du jour. Philip chews ‘em up and spits ‘em out on a regular basis.”
“Another shallow gay poseur.”
“You get them in Bermuda?”
“No, not much. Bermuda’s basically a conservative place, anti-gay. I meet all kinds in Miami, though.”
“I bet. Yeah, Philip’s quite a piece of work. He loves shallowly, hates deeply, and holds a grudge forever.”
Free leaned back and eyed her. “We’d best keep an eye on Philip, the crew and I.”
“Yeah, but don’t let him get the wrong idea.” Sherry shrugged. “Heck, for all I know, for you it could be the right idea.”
Even in the starlight, she could see astonishment all over his face. She was seized by a fit of the giggles. The pot had definitely kicked in.
“I’ll have you know—” Free started. “Aw, what the hell,” he said, and jammed a hand into her hair, bringing her close. Their lips were no more than a hairsbreadth apart.
He drew back. “No,” he said.
“N-no?” She searched her feelings, trying to figure out if she was disappointed or not.
“No.” He sounded firm. “You think men value you for your looks, and that you have nothing else to offer. I’m going to prove you wrong.”
Picking up his Red Stripe, he left the upper deck.
You can find Sue here: