ENDLESS SUMMER WRITE ALONG -
Read along with me, chapter by chapter, as I write Endless Summer - book one in The Summer Hearts Series - a sexy spin off to the Ship Mates series
Grace is fizzing with excitement – it’s almost bubbling over and her mother sighs with impatience.
“Will you relax – you’re making me itchy.”
“Yes itchy. You’re so excited – you can’t sit still, you’re jumpy, you’re grinning like an idiot. It’s just a holiday.”
Grace nods at her mum and tries to wipe the smile off her face, but she knows this is going to be more than a holiday. She’s joining her sister on the cruise ship she works on, and while Ava has a job to do, Grace doesn’t.
Newly single, she is ready to mingle. Naked. And she can’t help but be excited by that.
She’s packed and ready and is just waiting for her father to finish his work emails before he drives her down to Southampton, to the port, where Ava will be waiting for her, and Grace will finally throw caution to the wind.
She might have got over their father’s strict religious teachings about sex before Ava did, but she’s still only done it with James, and as good as it was, she really has nothing to compare him to. She’s ready to try out a buffet of desirable men, all looking for nothing more than a holiday fling, so she can finally decide if James was any good or not, and she can finally feel like a woman of the world.
The cruise is perfect – stopping off at some beautiful places, and her mum is right – she is giddy with excitement and impatience.
“All right, all right. I’m on my way. I can’t get on with email – what’s wrong with a telephone conversation, or a letter?”
Grace doesn’t even bother answering him, just rolls her eyes, before throwing her arms around her mum, who wipes a tear away.
“Don’t be daft, mum. I’m only going for ten days.”
“I know, but I’m worried you’re going to end up like your sister, running way to sea.”
“I’ve got nothing to run from. I’m going to have a great holiday, sunbathe with my big sister, and then come home like a good girl.”
“And get a proper job.”
“Absolutely dad, thanks for that.”
He winks and Grace rolls her eyes again; she seems to do that a lot.
“Do you have everything you need?”
“I do. And there’s a shop on the ship and there’ll be shops every place we stop too. Mum, stop worrying.”
Grace kisses her mum’s cheek. She loves how much her parents worry about her and Ava, really. It shows how much they care.
She blasts the music in the car, and she sings along to Queen and Fleetwood Mac and Blondie the entire way there, her dad joining in, almost as tuneless as she is.
“Ava is going to meet us at the terminal,” Grace says, reading the text from her sister.
They arrive at Southampton and join the queue of cars. Grace has already been twice – once when she dropped her big sister off to start her new job on board the ship, and the second time when Ava thought her new relationship was doomed and wanted to come home.
The ship looks even bigger to Grace now she knows she’s getting on it.
Ava has told her so many amazing things about the ship: Grace is fizzing with excitement. She pops her sunglasses on the top of her head and grins.
She spots Ava and they pull into a drop off bay.
Their dad gets out of the ship and Ava gives him a warm hug.
“I’ve missed you, dad. How’s mam?”
“Good – glad to have the both of you out of the way for a bit.”
“Liar!” Grace calls, grabbing her cases from the boot.
“Hey sis!” Grace high fives Ava, and Ava laughs.
“She might explode,” their dad says, passing Ava the last of Grace’s luggage.
“She might,” Grace says, making a face at both of them. Of course she’s excited – she’s ready to have the holiday of a lifetime, and she’s already sizing up men as they pass her, wondering who she might be lucky enough to have a holiday romance with.
They hug their dad, and he drives off, music still blaring.
“Ava, I cannot wait for this. Look at all the people. Oh my god, is that the chef off the TV?”
Ava laughs and shushes her. “Yes, that’s Logan Matthews – he’s got a restaurant on board.”
“God, he’s so good looking in person.”
“Yes – shush! Let’s go.”
“Do I have to queue like a normal person?”
“Yes, but I can get you through quicker. Follow me.”
Grace still has to have her ticket checked and go through passport control, and have a bank card assigned to her cabin so she can pay for everything she needs, but it’s all done quicker for her than anyone else, because she’s with Ava.
“I feel sick,” Grace says, tugging on Ava’s arm and pointing to another passenger. “Wasn’t he in Westlife?”
Ava looks but shakes her head. “I don’t think so.”
“But you have famous people on board?”
Grace grins. “Is Hudson James on board?”
Ava pokes in the arm. “Will you behave? No, he’s off the ship right now, and you are already driving me crazy.”
“Good thing you’ve got work to keep you occupied then.”
“Yes. Or I might throw you overboard.”
“You love me too much to hurt me.”
“I know it. Ooh, look at them.”
Ava turns her head and laughs. There’s a group of men huddled together, drinking beer and toasting one man – probably the stag.
“Lucky woman who gets to marry him.”
Grace can’t stop staring at the group of men; they’re all good looking, all full of confidence and all grinning as they wait to board the ship.
Ava pulls her along and through a long walkway that takes them onto the ship.
“Much as you’d like to have stayed there ogling the hot men…”
“I would have. That was a good-looking bunch of men, sis.”
“Not that you’re looking.”
“No harm in looking, Gracie, but I’m pretty happy where I am.”
“On a ship, with a dream job and a dream man.”
“Don’t pretend you’re jealous,” Ava says, nudging her sister in the side. “I can see you checking out literally every man that’s walked past. Take it easy now. I don’t want to have to look after your broken heart; I’ve got work to do.”
“I don’t intend to break my heart, sis. I intend to have the time of my life.”
Grace squeals with excitement as they walk onto the ship and she sees the atrium ahead of her.
“The time of your life,” Ava says, hugging her sister and hoping this holiday changes Grace’s life, just like it changed hers.
Ava leads the way to Grace’s cabin – a single cabin with a double bed and a small balcony tucked at the front of the ship.
“Oh, my god,” Grace squeals, throwing herself on the bed. “This is so bloody comfy.”
Ava goes out onto the balcony, and Grace joins her.
“This is amazing.”
“It is – I don’t get a balcony. I might have to join you.”
“No way,” Grace says, going back inside, exploring the cabin, opening every cupboard and every drawer. “I intend to share my bed, but not with you.”
Grace shrugs. “I’m not even going to pretend to feel bad. Did you see the blokes on that stag do?”
“I’m not even going to pretend I can tell you what to do. Just be safe.”
“Of course. I’m not daft, sis, just lonely since James left, and-”
She’s interrupted by Ava’s snort of laughter. “That is some bullshit.”
“It’s true. I’m lonely.”
“You are not lonely – you just want to get laid.”
Grace grins. “Fine, so I want to get laid. I’m not intending to be a complete tart, but I am more than ready to enjoy this holiday and all it has to offer.”
“I’m sure you will. Now you unpack, I’m going to see Mack and I’ll catch you for some lunch before the muster.”
“What’s the muster?”
“I told you – the alarm will sound; you grab your life jacket and head down to…” Ava checks the back of her door. “The Green Room. Ah, that’s my favourite bar. They’ll talk you through all the safety stuff, you put on your life jacket, and then you’re free to enjoy the rest of your trip.”
“I cannot wait. Okay. I’m going to change into something sexier.”
Ava gives her a look. “For lunch?”
“Yes. I might see some gorgeous blokes, and I don’t want to be in my scruffy clothes. I want to make a good first impression.”
“Bless you,” Ava says and kisses her sister’s cheek. “See you soon.”
“I’ll text you. Are you sure you won’t regret being by yourself? You don’t wish you’d brought a friend?”
“God no. I love my friends, but I want a holiday, for once, where I can be completely selfish.”
“Yeah – like when we were kids we had to do what mum and dad said. Then when I went with James, it was whatever he wanted. Even when I go with the girls, everything is decided by committee. No – I am doing exactly as I please for the next ten days. Eating when I want. Going where I want. Doing what I want. And – if I’m lucky, and, you know what sis, I feel pretty lucky, then I might just get to sleep with whoever I want to, too.”
“Grace, you’re amazing. I would never have been brave enough to go on holiday by myself. But I can see where you’re coming from. Remember when we went on that awful bus trip and then the bus broke down and we were stuck on it for hours.”
“Yes! It was bloody boiling, and we didn’t have anything to eat or drink. Awful.”
“But neither of us wanted to go – they roped us into it. So on this holiday, there’s nobody to rope me into anything. I’m so ready for this. Now go so I can get sexy-fied.”
“That’s not a real thing.”
“It is now.”
“Fine – I’ll text you.”
Grace ushers her sister out of the cabin and squeals one more time as she looks around it. It’s so classy and it has everything she might need – including a complimentary box of chocolate and a bottle of champagne.
Are you allowed to be drunk before you even set sail? She pops the champagne open – this is her holiday, her selfish holiday, and she can do whatever she damn pleases.
Ava texts her that she’ll fetch her in three quarters of an hour, and so she puts on some music, changes into a summer dress and cute sandals, freshens her makeup and spritzes herself with perfume, just in time for Ava to knock the door.
“Very nice, sis,” Ava says. “Mack says hi.”
“He’s not with you?”
“Nope – he’s with some of his friends by the crew pool, they’re having some sort of diving competition thing. I don’t know. It’s too cold to go in the water if you ask me, but…” She shrugs, and Grace follows her out of the cabin.
“Where are we going?”
“I thought I’d take you to the buffet – it’s where most passengers eat most of the time. It’s easier – you serve yourself however much of whatever you want, and you don’t have to wait for service. I thought it might fit in with your do what you want, when you want holiday vibe.”
Grace nods her approval and follows Ava to an enormous dining room and buffet.
“Yeah, it’s basically the middle part of the ship on this deck. Views out of both windows. Sometimes you can only eat on one side – like when they do the kids’ tea at five, on the port side, you won’t be allowed to eat there, but other than that there’s something being served all day. Breakfast, snacks, lunch, afternoon tea, evening meal, late night snacks. Always something.”
“My god, I’m going to put on a stone.”
“Don’t joke – some people bring different sized clothes for the latter half of their holidays.”
“Honestly. But you can also move. A lot – if you want to.”
“I will not be going to the gym, I can tell you that much.”
She passes Grace a tray and Grace chooses super healthily.
“Biding my time, sis,” she says, as she fills her plate with cold meats and salad. “Biding my time.”
They eat and then Ava gives Grace a quick tour of the ship before doubling back to her cabin to grab her life jacket.
“As soon as the alarm sounds, you need to go to the Green Room. I have to go to the theatre.”
Grace nods and follows her sister, practically getting whiplash every time a good-looking man goes past.
“You’re going to hurt yourself,” Ava says, laughing, pressing the button for the lift.
Grace makes a face at her. “I’m just excited, sis. I’ve got a fizzing in my stomach; I just know I’m going to have an amazing holiday.”
“I hope it doesn’t disappoint you.”
The lift opens and they step in. There’s already a couple in there, in their fifties, and a young man on his own. He’s wearing shorts, a white shirt and has his sunglasses on his head. He looks fresh and smells good. Grace grins at Ava and stands to the side of him.
“Impossible,” she says, and smiles. Everywhere she looks, there are gorgeous men. She’ll be spoiled for choice, she just knows it.
The lift opens, and Ava has to pull on Grace’s arm.
“Sis. You need to calm down. It’s like you’re on heat or something.”
Grace scurries to keep up with her.
“Wait for me.”
Ava nods at her sandals. “I walk miles on this ship every day. I’ve got the sensible shoes.”
Grace smiles. “I love a flip-flop, sis, but I’m not working, I am looking for love. And I’m not on heat. I’m just happy to be here. Looking for opportunities. I don’t want to miss out.”
A man walks past, giving Grace an approving glance, and Ava nudges her.
“See, you won’t miss out. Here’s the Green Room. Get a seat. It’s early but you don’t want to be running in those sandals when the alarm goes off.”
“Thanks, Ave. Are you going now?”
Ava nods and kisses Grace’s cheek.
“I might be in flip-flops, but I don’t want to run to the other end of the ship. I’ll text you.”
Grace nods and takes a seat, a comfy armchair, next to a highly polished table. It’s so luxurious. She’s glad Ava gave her a bottle of water at lunch. It’s hot and the bars aren’t open yet.
She places her life jacket on the seat beside her and takes a long drink.
People are slowly filing into the room, even though the alarm hasn’t sounded yet, and Grace just loves people watching. She loves looking at people’s clothes, shoes, bags, women’s hairstyles. And she is looking for good looking, single looking men.
She takes a selfie on her phone and uploads it to social media. Then she sits back and waits for the alarm to go off.
Despite knowing it was coming, she jumps when it sounds and sits up. The flurry of activity is exciting. The room fills with people and with staff – all wearing their jackets and showing people where to sit and what to do.
By the time the captain speaks, it’s standing room only, and Grace is glad she’s got a sister on board who knows what she’s doing.
The captain makes his speech, and Grace can’t help but laugh when he instructs the passengers to stay away from the staff only areas of the ship.
“The staff only areas of the ship are off limits for all passengers and no passenger should enter a staff only area of the ship – even if you are invited to do so.”
There are more than a few titters of laughter at this, and Grace knows she’s not the only dirty minded passenger on board. She shifts position, and catches the eye of a crew member, and he grins at her and shrugs.
She tunes back into the captain, and then he finishes his safety speech by wishing them all a glorious holiday.
The crew member ambles over to her table, and Grace smiles at him. Here we go, she thinks, as he holds out his hand.
“Joe. I promise not to invite you anywhere you’re not allowed to go.”
She laughs and shakes his hand. “Grace. I promise not to ask you to.”
“It’s the same line every cruise,” he says. “Always makes people laugh.”
“What happens if a passenger gets caught in a place they’re not supposed to be?”
Joe moves closer, leans on the chair next to her, and practically whispers. “Well, you have to have a staff member who knows how to not get caught.”
Grace locks eyes with him and grins. This is what she came on holiday for: sexy men, flirty men, sexual tension. Her toes actually curl, with the deliciousness of it all, and then a little old lady with white curls grabs hold of his arm. She’s pulling at her life jacket and obviously getting herself in a pickle.
“Help me dear, I can’t get this off.”
He makes a face, and Grace hides her laughter, taking a sip of her drink.
“Joe!” another member of staff calls to him, and he winks at her.
“I have to go. I’m in the theatre cast, come and watch me one night, maybe we can grab a drink afterwards?”
Her stomach flips. If he’s in the theatre cast, then he knows Ava. Perfect.
“I think you work with my sister?”
“Really?” He holds his hands up, waving off the bloke calling his name again. “Who?”
“Yes! Ava. Wow, you’re her sister Grace?”
“I am. I remember you – you came to pick her up when she had her misunderstanding with Mack.” He puts air quotes around the word misunderstanding, and Grace laughs.
“That’s right. I remember you. You had flowers.”
“I did.” He sighs when someone calls his name again. “I have to go. I’ll catch up with you.”
Grace nods and watches him run off. He’s hot – black hair, lithe body. She grabs her phone to text Ava. She’s caught a live one!