Voyage To Submission

 

VOYAGE TO SUBMISSION

An Ellora’s Cave Publication, May 2005

 

Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.

1056 Home Avenue

Akron, OH  44310

 

ISBN MS Reader (LIT) ISBN 9781419902222

Other available formats (no ISBNs are
assigned):

Adobe (PDF), Rocketbook (RB), Mobipocket (PRC)
& HTML

 

VOYAGE TO SUBMISSION Copyright
© 2005 MLYN HURN

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book may not be
reproduced in whole or in part without permission.

 

This book is a work of fiction and any
resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely
coincidental. They are productions of the authors’ imagination and used
fictitiously.

 

Edited by
Linda Carroll-Bradd.

Cover art by
Syneca
.

Voyage To Submission
Mlyn Hurn

 

Chapter One

 

Andrea Bond was a woman who had learned
about herself the hard way…through countless hours of introspection and
journaling, and visits with her therapist. She felt pretty secure in who she
was, now anyway, including her strengths and her weaknesses. Certainly, she
believed she was successful in her chosen profession. There was money for most
things she wanted and most assuredly for all the things that were needed. At
thirty, she wanted for nothing in the life she’d chosen to live.

That wasn’t entirely true, she reminded
herself gently while she paid the taxi driver before directing the porter
regarding the luggage she’d brought. If she was truly happy and secure, then no
way in hell would she be about to embark on a reunion cruise with her friends
from college. Yet here she was, about to face a seven-day cruise with people,
most of whom she’d not seen since college graduation. She needed to face this
part of her history, come what may.

Turning, she started walking towards the
check-in point at the base of the modern-day gangway. As the quiet, gray-haired
couple in front of her moved along, she smiled and offered her papers to the
young, handsome officer in charge of this portion of the arrival processing.

He accepted her papers without looking up,
checking on several things, saying several things by rote before finally
lifting his gaze as he returned the folder.

Andy was prepared for his reaction. At the
moment his eyes focused on her face, she noted his whole body stance changed.
He straightened his shoulders and back, sucking in his gut and then smiled. After
five years, she was no longer shocked by strangers’ reactions once they stopped
and really looked. No mirror was necessary to know he saw a woman who was five
feet, seven inches tall, and possessed a body that rivaled a
Playboy
centerfold, none of which was enhanced. She had hidden under layers of fat for
the first twenty-two years of her life. But thanks to months of introspection,
years of exercise and weight training, very few people who had known her before
she left college would recognize her.

She was glad she didn’t have a famous face
as she took the folder from the officer. The attention she attracted since
she’d lost all the weight was something she still had some trouble accepting
without a lot of doubt as to sincerity. She made her way to the next check-in
point.

Well-placed signs directed all new arrivals
to a small reception area. Upon entering the room, visitors were welcomed by
two women, both smiling so much Andy was sure their faces were either frozen in
place or they took breaks when she blinked. Almost before she knew it, she was
through the reception area, arms full of instructional handouts, one of which
included a map on finding her cabin.

Luckily, she was fairly good with
directions and easily found her stateroom. After the others booked the cruise,
she decided to contact a different cruise agent. Even though it was expensive,
she booked a stateroom on her own. Her gut instinct told her she had made the
right decision and ignored the logical voice that gave her grief over the cost.

In spite of their being best friends in
college, the contact since then had only been sporadic at best, with nearly all
of them. Having a room to herself would allow her somewhere to escape in case
they didn’t get along after all these years.

The stateroom was way more than she had
anticipated and wandered around, checking out the closet and drawers before she
went onto the balcony. While the view wasn’t great at the moment, once they
were at sea, she had no doubt it would be worth the extra money. This way, if
the cruise proved a total bust, she could hang out here, order room service and
get some work done!

* * * * *

After an hour of checking out the
stateroom, taking her time to put away her clothes and other belongings, she
picked up the phone and requested the room her friends were staying in. She
hoped they were not too angry with her for switching to her own cabin. “Hello?”

“Gayle, this is Andy.”

“Andy!” Her friend shrieked into the phone.
“Where are you? Please don’t tell me you missed the boat! Hush up you guys, I
can’t hear her.”

“I’m here, on the ship. I did run a little
late. Did the others make it all right?” Andy asked the question to
deliberately delay answering her friend.

“Yes, we’re here, but where the devil are
you?” Gayle paused.

Hearing all the chatter between the three
women on the other end of the receiver, Andy wondered if the others were all
talking to her as well. That was how it used to be, all of them trying to talk
at the same time, even when one was on the phone.

“We are supposed to meet the guys in the
lounge on…uhm, some damned deck in thirty minutes!”

“I know,” Andy reassured her friend. “We’re
to meet outside the Constellation Lounge. I just called to promise you I’d be
there.” A few seconds more passed before she heard a different voice.

“Andy! Where are you? They didn’t deliver
any luggage for you. Don’t tell me you only brought the one bag? Sweetie,
you’ll need more clothes than just the sweats you used to wear all the time in
school.”

“Liz, relax. I’m fine. The truth is—”

“Oh, God! Did you book a separate room?
Andy, you dog, you!”

Andy smiled as she listened to her friends’
chattering voices. She wasn’t completely sure who said what as the voices came
at her. “Stop!” she almost shouted through the phone. “And yes, I booked a suite
so I could get some work done.”

“Aaw, Andy! This is a pleasure cruise, not
a working one. Wait a minute! What in the world could
you
be working
on?”

“Liz! Look, I’ll meet you guys in the
lounge in five minutes. We can have a drink before the guys arrive, okay?”

She heard the frustration in her friends’
voices as they agreed to her suggestion. As she hung up the phone a few moments
later, she glanced down at her outfit. She didn’t wear sweat suits all the time
anymore, but she still preferred casual dress. Quickly, she decided to put on
one of her new dresses. No doubt, her friends would be nicely dressed for the
first evening of the cruise. She wanted them to be impressed the first time
they saw the
new
her.

Six minutes later, she entered the lounge,
looking around for her friends. She doubted they would have changed much over
the years. If anyone recognized her…now, that would be impressive. The dress
she had chosen was knee-length, red, sleeveless and embossed silk
cheongsam-style. Her black high heels matched the woven trim around the high
neck and down the off-center and the closure togs. Maybe it was silly, but she
felt like a million bucks.

Taking a deep breath, Andy pushed open one
of the double glass doors and entered the lounge. The place wasn’t deserted,
but the majority of tables were empty and several men were seated at the bar.
Almost immediately, Andy recognized three of the five men who were joining them
on this cruise. The closest was dressed in shorts already with a logo t-shirt
in matched colors. The black curly hair was shorter than he’d worn it in
college, but Andy still recognized Tony Marello. All through college, he’d
dressed better than anyone else. His father could afford it, but it was based
on his personal taste. She easily saw him as the successful restaurateur she’d
read about in the newspaper several times over the recent years.

Seated beside him was Ray Williams who had
finished medical school and then joined his father’s practice. She wasn’t
surprised to see he already had a receding hairline. He was dressed in casual
trousers and a short-sleeved shirt. His blond hair had darkened since she’d
seen him last, and when he turned to look at Tony, she saw he now had a
mustache.

The last guy at the bar was Mark Sherman,
the brains of the group. Most likely, he traveled the tenure track at a college
somewhere, working as some kind of science professor. This career choice was
inevitable because both parents had been tenured science professors. His
reddish-brown hair was still a little long in the back, and the fact he wore a
tie with his shirt and a sweater vest would easily serve as a dead giveaway.

For a moment, Andy considered turning
around and leaving. The last time she’d seen all of these guys together had
been the spring break vacation their senior year. They had all worked quite
hard to finish their work on Wednesday, giving them almost eleven full days of
vacation time away from campus and studies. Mr. and Mrs. Riley, Jack’s parents,
had generously offered them the use of their house in the Keys.

Jack Riley.

Andy didn’t see him at the bar. He was the
one she had always had a crush on…the only who had really mattered. If she were
honest with herself, he was the real reason she’d wanted to come on this
cruise.

Like the other four guys in their group,
he’d been nice to her. Other than a few pecks on her cheek, not counting spring
break, platonic didn’t even describe the relationship they didn’t have. For
three and a half years, she had traveled with her friends and never really
given much thought to why none of the guys ever hit on her. She’d accepted her
friends’ belief it was because she was the youngest. On the second to last
night of their spring break, Andy had been unable to sleep. Giving up finally,
she had wandered soundlessly down the stairs towards the kitchen in search of a
glass of milk.

Entering the kitchen, she reached for the
light but stopped when she heard voices coming from the verandah just beyond
the double screen doors. Obviously, the guys were still playing cards even
though the girls retired to bed more than an hour ago. She opened her mouth to
announce herself when she heard Jack speaking. Her breath caught in her chest,
just like it did so often when she heard the deep timbres in his tone.

“Now look, guys, the girls are insisting.”

She knew his voice so well because she
often replayed his words over and over in her mind, rehashing what she could
have said, or even should have said.

“We don’t have to draw numbers, guys. I’ll
volunteer,” Jack continued a few seconds later.

Andy smiled in the darkness, wasn’t that
just like Jack—he was the most generous of the five male friends. No wonder she
loved him, she wrapped her arms around her waist.

“Gayle told me that unless one of us takes
Andy out tomorrow night,” Ray Williams pointed out. “I can forget about having
sex until after graduation. You better be serious, Jack. Otherwise, she’ll be
with me and Gayle, and I’d planned a romantic picnic for our last night here.”

“But Ray, I thought you guys were going to
different med schools,” Danny Fishbein interrupted.

“No shit, Danny! Keep pointing it out to
make me feel even better about my sexless future.”

“Hey, don’t jump me, Ray! Ruthie and I have
plans for the day tomorrow. What about you, Mark?”

“Liz and I made plans as well,” Mark
replied quickly.

“Jack and I were going to troll the local
bars and maybe get lucky,” Tony Marello spoke up. “It’s either your turn, Mark,
or Danny or Ray.”

“One of you goes out with Andy. Draw straws
or something and the loser must ask Andy out for dinner…and whatever,” Mark
interjected immediately.

“Come on, guys, that isn’t fair,” Danny
protested. “She’d tell me no, and then we’d be right back where we started
from.”

“That’s because all you talked about was
accounting,” Mark Sherman pointed out.

Tony’s laugh carried through the night air.

Andy felt a chill run up and down her
spine. Danny had asked her out for pizza a week or so before this trip and
she’d thought it odd at the time. The whole evening he’d explained all the
intricacies of a full accounting audit, besides which, she knew he was really
interested in her friend Liz. Before she could ponder it further, an unfamiliar
voice answered.

“Shut up, Tony. Besides, if you lose, I’d
say not having sex would be a sure thing.”

“Screw you!” Tony replied.

“We agreed to share the ordeal. Whenever
the majority wants to divide and conquer the women, somebody has to take out
the ‘duffer’ or we all suffer.”

“Let’s drop it.” Jack cut off his friends’
conversation.

Andy was having more trouble telling their
voices apart over the roaring in her ears that had nothing to do with the ocean
surf nearby.

“Come on, Jack, it was a given there would
be a duffer. Every group of hot chicks always has one dumb, ugly, fat friend.
It’s a given if you don’t occasionally take out the D-U-F-F gal pal, all the
gorgeous women will join ranks to protect her and nobody gets laid. Andy’s
always been the ‘duffer’. Deny you weren’t hoping as much as the rest of us her
parents would refuse to let her come along this time. We tried to find a geek
or a nerd for Andy, but there were no takers. Tomorrow night is our last on
break and some of us want to cut loose or have plans. It’s noble of you, Jack,
to offer again.”

“Especially since we’ve all hooked up
except you or Tony.” Ray spoke again.

Andy barely heard him. She took a step back
from the open window, dreading Jack’s answer and yet still needing to hear the
truth.

“I’ve told you before, Tony, drop the
duffer thing,” Jack spoke quickly.

Tony answered defensively, “The last thing
I want to do is go out with the duffer. Jack has volunteered more than anyone
else, so I’d say it’s up to one of you three to do it.”

“For the last time, just drop it, damn it!
I’ll ask Andy out for tomorrow. And Tony, I don’t ever want to hear you
discussing this again.”

Hearing Jack state he’d take her out had
hurt her the most. It’s like he was being the noble one and sacrificing himself
for the others. There was a roaring in her ears, barely registering the last
words. She knew she had to get out of there before the guys realized they’d
been overheard. Barely breathing, she backed out of the kitchen. Upstairs in
her bed, which she shared with Gayle, she pulled up the covers and cried
herself to sleep.

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