Beauty Queens

13,078
05.03.2019

Duff’s little moans traveled up her spine, made her head buzz. And another thought grabbed hold: She was doing this. She had the power to do this. That she could be both completely vulnerable and totally in control was mind-blowing.

“Wait,” she gasped, pressing her hands against his chest.

“Are you okay? Am I hurting you?”

“No. I mean, yes, I’m okay, and no, you’re not hurting me.”

“What is it?” He kissed her.

She wanted him. She wanted this. It was her choice.

“Nothing,” she said and joined him fully.

Sosie had danced so much, her muscles ached. She welcomed the pain. The pain reminded her that she was a dancer, that she was someone named Sosie. Lately, she wasn’t so clear about who or what she was. It was as if she had become merged — Sosieandjennifer — and she missed being herself. Alone, she stretched out in the sand down the beach under the swishing leaves of a palm and stared at the sky. That moon was something else. It was a moon built for big dreams and romance.

She knew Jen was probably looking for her — who would want to waste a moon like that? But Sosie didn’t want to share this moon and this moment. She wanted it all to herself. And something in that desire made her realize how far she had drifted from that first flush of excitement with Jennifer. Her affections were waning, and she wasn’t sure she could get them back. The thought upset her. She didn’t want to think about that, and so, despite the throb in her legs, she got up to dance again under the bright full moon.

“That’s some moon,” Petra said.

“Stop talking about my ass, you beast.” Sinjin slipped his arms around Petra’s waist, and they laughed and talked while the stars kept watch.

Oblivious to the charms of the moonlight, Agent Jones stood outside the volcano compound, removed his gloves, and lit up his last cigarette of the night. Tane Ngata hadn’t told him anything. Tomorrow he’d have to make some decisions about the eco-warrior and those damned pirates before things got too out of hand. He exhaled, and in the stream of smoke, he thought he saw the thin ghost of his father. He stubbed out the cigarette.

Tomorrow.

His business finished, Harris slipped from the pirate ship. He congratulated himself for a job well done before vanishing into the light-mottled night.

From behind the shelter of a tree, Taylor cupped her hand into a familiar motion, waving to the moon as if it were an admiring crowd.

“Pretty, doncha think?” she said.

But the dead man at her feet didn’t say a word.

42Captains Bodacious favors Bad Boy Rum: Rebellion in a Bottle. Drink responsibly.

43Partying can be very hard on your skin. Be sure to moisturize with an ultra-hydrating serum like The Corporation’s new Skin So Right B14 Complex for Total Cell Renewal, made with essential vitamins, minerals, and concentrated yak’s bladder. FDA approval pending.

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

The next day was a fine, hot one. By noon, Adina had already been for a swim. She’d brought in a mess of fish and descaled them, rinsing them with freshwater and placing them in a barrel for smoking. While she worked, she sang.

“I don’t give a damn ’bout my bad reputation,” she snarled in her best Joan Jett.

“Hey, Deen,” Mary Lou said, sidling up next to her. “You disappeared last night.”

“Yeah,” Adina said with a wicked smile.

“You dog! Details. Now.” Mary Lou whacked open a coconut and shared it with Adina while she listened to that tale of the previous night, of the exploits brought about by the mischievous moon. For a moment, Mary Lou was reminded of her adventures with Tane, and it made her sad, but she vowed to forget about it — and him.

“It was probably all a dream, anyway,” she said.

“What?”

“Nothing. Sorry.”

“We don’t say sorry ’round these parts, Nebraska,” Adina said in her best sheriff’s voice.

“Damn straight,” Mary Lou said in hers. “I’m happy for you.”

“Thanks,” Adina said. “I’m happy for me, too. Hey. I have to go to the ship and get some dry noodles. Come with?”

“Sure.”

They climbed onto the ship. From down below came the sound of hammering. The wood had been deemed good enough, and a crew of pirates and beauty queens were about the business of hammering and applying pitch to make the vessel seaworthy again. Once they’d grabbed the food from the kitchen, Adina went to Duff’s cabin, but he wasn’t there, so she lounged on the bed, smelling his pillow. On a ledge behind that pillow was a small device. Camera, said Adina’s brain. She ignored it even as her heart tripled its beat: cameracameracamera. She pressed REWIND, then PLAY. It was a close-up of Duff, smirking at the camera.