The Saint of Quarantine Island
My newest science fiction romance book is sexier than most of my PG romances. Here’s an example of that — a striptease.
This scene is a flashback to the evening in Janet Davis’s hometown in suburban Los Angeles when she first met Kendo Carlisle, the so-called Saint of Gilford Island, at a charity function. Afterwards, Janet discovers that her husband has impregnated her friend. When Kendo comforted her, the distraught Janet threw up in his lap.
This is what happens next. (Fair warning: adult content lies ahead — and a surprising revelation.
Carlisle went to his hotel room, one floor above the meeting room. To clean up, Janet supposed, though he didn’t explain. When she followed without a word, he slowed to match her listless pace, tacitly inviting her company.
She might as well follow. What else was she going to do?
In the elevator, the stench of vomit humiliated her with every breath.
He got her a bottle of water from his room’s minifridge to rinse away the taste. Scotch might’ve been more appropriate. That was what Franklin would’ve offered. The innocuous bottle in her hand was more evidence this man was a saint.
While he changed in his washroom, she stood by the dresser. Why? She should apologize again then leave. He couldn’t want her around. What she’d done to him was beneath contempt, even though he hadn’t said a word of censure.
He came out wearing jeans and t-shirt with an unfamiliar First Nations design. From Canada, she supposed.
He noticed she hadn’t opened the water bottle, so he opened it for her. As she washed away the vile aftertaste, he asked if there was anything else he could do for her.
“No, thank you.”
He asked her what she was going to do. She had a hard time concentrating on his words.
“I don’t know. Kill Franklin?”
He took her seriously and protested, so she laughed. More of a choked bark, actually. She wouldn’t kill him. Seven-Published-Stories Diana, on the other hand…
“I’m fine,” she said like a little girl with well-practiced church manners. “I won’t kill anyone.” Except maybe herself.
But she wasn’t a little girl. That epithet swelled in her mind even though she was the one who’d thought it, not him.
She wore a Reformation Chamomile dress with cap sleeves and a thigh slit. It zipped down the back, and she didn’t need Carlisle’s help to unzip it. She might’ve been over the hill, but still supple enough to reach back and pull the zipper to her waist and an enticing few inches farther.
Why did she do it?
No idea. She hadn’t even realized what she was doing until her arm was tugging the zipper.
Should she stop? Rezip?
She stood facing away from Carlisle, toward the dresser mirror. In the mirror, she watched his reaction to her unexpected move. Was that why she’d done it? To test his reaction?
His face betrayed nothing, but he was male, so he must have had something in mind when he let her come to his room, something more than just a drink of water and soothing her tears and changing his pants. But other than watching the skin revealed by the zipper, he gave no hint what the something was.
Franklin liked extravagant stripteases, the more blatant and explicit the better. She’d always been glad to oblige, glorying in her sexuality and eager to do anything to keep the marital bed hot so he wouldn’t stray.
For that reason, or more likely some other reason entirely, she gave Carlisle several seconds to study the flesh of her back, the thin strap of her bra, and the top of her half-slip. Then she waited a few seconds more. Anticipation was the soul of seduction, a truth she seemed to have been born knowing.
Finally, she turned to him.
She had his attention, certainly, but he neither said nor did anything. She pulled the cap sleeves off her arms. The dress pooled gracefully at her waist. She left it there for another few seconds before wiggling first her hands then her hips so the dress slipped to the floor. Her half-slip wasn’t new, was no longer pretty—like her, Kendo Carlisle’s lack of reaction seemed to say—so she shoved it down and off.
She’d made a mistake, though. Franklin loved to see her reach under her dress or half-slip and pull off her panties. It both promised the blatant nudity he craved and heightened his anticipation. She assumed Carlisle loved the same things.
But did he? Did all men like the same things as Franklin? God, she hoped so. Otherwise, she might as well be a virgin, ignorant of all men but one.
When she reached back to open her bra, she thought Carlisle’s eyes widened. Good. Although maybe they didn’t. She wasn’t sure.
Except that a striptease should be a joyful act, full of anticipation and delight that would liquefy her belly. But this one was none of that.
The uncertainty kept her from pushing the bra away from her breasts. Only when she’d turned away from her audience and looked at the wall, not the mirror, did she let the lacy scrap slide down her arms. Like most of her underwear, it was expensive and deliberately provocative, underwear meant to be removed in front of an appreciative husband.
But Carlisle wasn’t her husband.
Which meant this was wrong.
No, it was the wages of sin. His sin. It was what the bastard deserved.
Covering her breasts with an arm, she looked over her shoulder at where Kendo sat on the bed. It was too far for him to reach out and touch, but not by much. Yet he still made no move, though the lap of his faded jeans betrayed his interest.
Why didn’t he do something, say something? Wink, even. She’d settle for a wink. Why didn’t he wink?
Because he was a saint and not just an ordinary guy the media had slapped a label onto to capture clicks and views? A real, true saint? Incorruptible?
Which made her what? Jezebel?
But she’d gone too far to back out now and besides, Jezebel was a familiar-enough role. She’d performed it with Franklin three or four times a week for seventeen years.
When she paused for half a minute, Carlisle asked if she was okay.
Instead of answering, she defiantly yanked her pantyhose and underpants down and off. The mirror’s inexorable gravity pulled her gaze like a black hole sucking everything into its orbit, but she resisted her nakedness. She knew what she looked like. She enjoyed looking at herself, usually, though sometimes lately she observed her flesh with self-conscious irony. Is this flesh, these boobs, nipples, ass, this meticulously trimmed triangle of hair…is this really the sum total of my importance to the world?
This time, though, she watched the Saint of Gilford Island, instead.
His throat bobbed. He met her gaze. Yet still he sat on the bed, visibly aroused but doing nothing about it.
That was when she knew.
Knew that this was really and truly a mistake. Worse than a mistake—it proved she was dead. Shriveled up and dead.
Janet Davis was deceased.
Or at least old. That was the same thing, wasn’t it? The beauty who could twirl any man around her little finger with a seductive smile…that woman had died of old age.
She closed her eyes. Stifled a sob. Placed her arms on the dresser and sobbed openly, until she realized bending over like that shoved her cellulite in Kendo’s face, figuratively speaking, and that wasn’t a ladylike thing to do to a saint. A person was never more vulnerable than when naked with a stranger. God up in heaven, was that ever true, especially when the man watching you, the stranger you’d met just two and a half hours ago, was fully dressed.
His silence was intolerable, yet she had no time machine to go back and un-undress. Straightening and covering her shame with her arms, she stared off toward the closed curtains. Franklin would’ve left them open for her striptease. She wouldn’t have objected. She was used to such things. It was part of who she’d become.
Maybe who she’d always been, under her rigid veneer of respectability.
The bed creaked as Carlisle rose. She still couldn’t look at him, but she could hope. Maybe she’d been wrong. Maybe the sex goddess—that was what Franklin called her, though not recently—still lived. She squeezed her eyes closed, waiting. For what?
Suddenly she knew.
She was waiting for the saint’s holy benediction, or curse, informing her whether she still lived or was a dead husk, empty of dreams, ideals, and tomorrows.
From behind, Saint Kendo touched her shoulders with hands hot and male and unfamiliar. She gasped.
She should turn. Smile. Run her palm over the front of his slacks. Franklin said she had magic hands.
She bowed her head. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
For what? For being naked? For making a mess of his pants? For being who she was? All of the above?
She’d hesitated too long. The moment for enticement had passed, closing the door on that part of her life. A sob burst from her aching chest. She bent at the waist and wrapped her arms around body, covering herself as well as possible.
The sex goddess was dead.
She was dead. She was nothing except a lifeless sex goddess, a zombie, aghast at the knowledge that the empress wore no clothes.
Then came the moment she wasn’t sure had happened. Kendo Carlisle turned her, more a suggestion with his hands than a command, until she faced him, naked and vulnerable. After a moment she glanced up.
His expression shocked her.
His jaw was square, likely from his Scottish-Canadian father, and it quivered with emotion. His dark eyes were flat and almond-shaped from his Japanese-Canadian mother…and they, too, quivered. His strong torso, despite being muscular enough to withstand the rugged life on Gilford Island, shook as though it barely had the strength to remain upright on its own. His eyes shone with unshed tears, though that was impossible. He looked more naked and vulnerable than she was.
“There’s something you should know about me.” His voice was a ghostly whisper, scarcely audible over the pounding of her heart.
She couldn’t answer. After her outlandish behavior, she no longer had the right to speak to a man such as him.
“I…” He paused. Licked his lips. Looked away from her face.
She waited. Whatever he was about to say about himself must be disgraceful. Horrible. Maybe illegal.
“I didn’t kill my wife.”
His composure crumpled. His face contorted as he let out a low moan. Shaking with silent sobs, he wrapped his arms around her, his hands hot on her bare flesh, though they remained on her back above the waist. After a long, awkward moment, she hugged him back.
Could she have heard him right? He was crying because he hadn’t killed his wife?
Had Gilford turned him insane, too?
Spurred by her husband’s infidelity and haunted by abandoned aspirations, Janet, a suburban housewife smuggles herself into a wilderness quarantine. By catching the disease, she hopes to write a book that’ll redeem her empty life — and maybe, just maybe, find love with the man they call the Saint of Gilford Island. She’d once spent a memorable, though chaste, night with him. Surely he’ll help her build a new life.
But exile on an island of madmen is crueler than any suburban daydream. Instead of a quiet writing retreat, Janet finds pirates who steal everything but the clothes on her back … an arrogant Cambridge scientist who wants to take her to the London of an alternate Earth … a troubled Indian boy who becomes a surrogate son … a licentious cult leader who kidnaps her.
They’re all periodically insane then sane and back again – and so will she be, if she catches the Fireworks virus. Is writing a book . . . creating a legacy . . . worth such a risk?
What about true love?