Copyright 2022 @HM ThomasI guess I just got peeved last night because I was kind of hoping you’d checked me off on your sheet, since you were the only woman I selected.” The smile melted from her face. Oh shit. What had he said wrong? “I’m sorry, I—” “I threw my paper away.” Of course she did, she’d only met overgrown man-children, she wouldn’t want her information being shared with any of them. “I’m not on this cruise to meet anyone,” she continued, saving him from having to reply. “Like I’ve said, Ashley didn’t tell me it was a singles cruise and then she signed us up for speed dating. I’m just . . . I was already bad at dating before, and now I just don’t even think I want to.” “Especially since your only options are overgrown man-children?” A pink blush worked its way up her neck. “Yes and no.” He waited for her to elaborate. She rolled her eyes. “I briefly considered the possibility of a . . . hookup. Though considered is probably too strong a word. Entertained might be better. Anyway, while at the speed dating, I wondered if I could be compatible with any of the men there.” “And you found us all lacking?” Another eye roll. “You’re not on the list, Seth.” Shock coursed through him. So he wasn’t an overgrown man-child? He was worse? “I’m sorry, did you say I didn’t even make the not considered but entertained list of overgrown man-children?” “No.” She shook her head. “I mean, yes.” She huffed out an exasperated breath. “I can’t hook up with you on a cruise.” His mind went blank of all thought. Had she just said she couldn’t hookup with him? He could most readily assure her she could. “Please explain,” he urged. She sighed, causing her breasts to push against her strappy tank top. “Your friends with Zack which makes you sorta friends with Ashley. You don’t have vacation hookups with your friend’s friend.” “You don’t?” Too bad no one had ever told him that, he probably could’ve saved himself a lot of trouble over the years. “Why not?” “Because I might see you again. You can’t do the whole what happens on the ship stays on the ship with someone you might see off the ship.” Fair point. “But why would it have to stay on the ship? Like what if it was so good, you wanted it to go off the ship?” “Do you live in a rom-com, Seth? That doesn’t happen in real life. In real life, you have sex, and it gets messy. One person catches feelings and the other one doesn’t, or the sex is terrible but you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, or . . .” “Or you’re a widow who isn’t quite ready and you don’t want to have to keep looking at what you did?” Her face fell and her mouth dropped open. “Too close to the truth?” “You don’t know me, Seth. I already told you that.” He nodded. “But I’d like to.” She opened her mouth to protest, so he picked up another strawberry and shoved it between her parted lips. “I’m not saying I want to have sex with you, Courtney.” Though God knew he did. “I’m saying I’m not looking to meet anyone either, and it looks like our roommates have already paired up. Whether either of us like it or not, this is a cruise meant for couples. If we don’t pair up, fate will find someone to match us with.” “I don’t think that’s fate. I think it’s just the cruise directors.” He spared her a blank look. “We could hang out. Possibly enjoy each other’s company and have a great cruise.” “Without flirting or having sex or any of that?” He ground his teeth to keep from bursting her perfectly constructed bubble of denial. “We won’t do anything you don’t want.” Her gray eyes narrowed. Something told him that wasn’t the answer she’d been looking for. “Yes,” he clarified, hoping to ease her nerves. “We can hang out without anything romantic or sexual happening.” Though he knew if she didn’t want him, he could make it a lifetime without having sex with her, he highly doubted either of them could make it through the rest of this meal without flirting. Courtney wasn’t as outgoing as Ashley, but her subtle teasing and sweet smile were as effective at getting his attention as any over the top gesture. “Fine,” she huffed as if crying uncle. “I guess it would be nice to have someone to hang out with while Ashley’s tongue is shoved down Zack’s throat.”
About HM Thomas
HM Thomas grew up in a southern town creating worlds bigger and more dramatic than her own. She credits her dad’s nightly story times for her love of the written word and her mom’s devotion to Days of Our Lives for her love of dramatic fiction.
HM was writing fan-fiction long before it was a thing, taking the characters from her mom’s soaps or her own books and creating even more twists and turns for them. As she got older, she wrote her own friends into the plots. Some of them are still there.
After graduating from Clemson University, HM got her own Happily Ever After and decided to start writing them for her characters as well. She began focusing on romance, oftentimes mixed with suspense.
When not writing, HM enjoys traveling and hiking with her husband, three children and rescue dog. On a good day, she can be found with a book in her hand. On a really good day, there will be a campfire.
About The Love at Sea SeriesGet ready to set sail through the Caribbean on Festival Cruises’ most alluring voyage with eight of your favorite authors – happily ever after guaranteed! Experience everything the Love at Sea series has to offer. From speed dating to masquerades, guests are sure to enjoy the hot days and steamy nights. Explore hidden waterfalls, swim with dolphins, and watch as eight couples find their forever on the open ocean. Each story features a brand new couple and a fun trope from our amazing line up of authors including: Kate Stacy, HM Thomas, Mari Sol, S.A. Clayton, T.L. Anderson, Karigan Hale, Susan Renee, and A.M. Williams.
This promotional event is brought to you by The Indie Pen PR