Tell Me What You Need

By: Susan Sheehey



For my father

My biggest supporter, and original hero

I miss you so much



Vaughn Ayers dipped the woman over his arm, gliding his hand down her slinky, sequined shirt until he reached her navel. His heartbeat matched the rhythm and bass from the salsa music, the song ingrained in his soul. At least ingrained in his memory, he’d heard the tune fifty times each cruise.

After six years working for the cruise line, he had the DJ’s playlist memorized. Dozens of assignments all over the world, countless ports, and even more countless women.

But the dancing would never get old.

Courtney lifted her head, and stared, still poised in the dip, both of them lost for breath. That glint in her eyes proved the hours of flirting over the day just paid off.

With one move.

That was why Vaughn loved dancing. He literally swept women off their feet.

Worked every time.

The ship swayed against a wave, making everyone on the illuminated floor stumble. He wrapped his arm around her tighter, and helped her stand. He barely noticed the swaying now, so used to it after years of working among rough seas.

The blonde gripped his neck, and pressed her mouth to his. Her tongue forceful against his lips, and sweet. A precursor to the rest of the night.

Her kiss lingered on his, and her gaze filled with lust. “My cabin or yours?”

He grinned. Sleeping with guests was strictly off limits. On or off duty. Good thing Courtney wasn’t technically a guest. She worked for the cruise line, one of the camera crew from a photo shoot today. “Yours,” he replied into her ear over the music.

With an echoing grin, she grabbed his hand and led him off the floor.

Vaughn glanced over at Dorian, his friend and fellow cruise ship entertainment coordinator, who, last he saw, was dancing with some Spanish beauty. Except now, he stood over the by the bar, guzzling bottle after bottle of water.

He frowned, and tugged back on the woman’s arm gently. “Give me a second.” He finished the request with a kiss.

“Don’t say a damn word.” His buddy guzzled another bottle by the time Vaughn joined him.

He already knew what was wrong. The same thing that’d plagued the muscled, stocky man for the last eight months. Sea-sickness.

Not easy for a former Marine to admit. Dorian just wasn’t born with sea legs. Not like Vaughn.

“Did you run out of anti-nausea meds?”

Dorian’s face turned a little more green, or maybe the disco ball kept catching his skin the wrong way. “They stopped working. As soon as we reached Curacao, just useless.”

On cue, another wave shifted the ship sideways. People stumbled again, and this time a few glasses slid off the counter. Good thing they were plastic.

The minute the ship hit the rougher waters off the ABC islands in the Caribbean, all bartenders knew to shift out the glassware.

His friend’s stomach must’ve lurched into his throat.

Without skipping a beat, Vaughn grabbed the trash can from behind the bar, and set it in front of Dorian.

At least he could tell when the guy would lose his dinner just by the look on his face. They had their routine.

D would escape from guests’ view and finish his involuntary-purging, and Vaughn would cover for him. As soon as he recovered, they’d spend their time bouncing women off each other, full-time wingmen, traveling the world.

Whenever a fight ensued between women over their ‘boat boyfriend,’ his military buddy deescalated. That was what he did best. Something he sucked at.

Courtney sidled up to Vaughn, her fingers caressing his bicep in a strong grip he was counting on later. “You coming?”

“Sure thing, darlin’.”

Dorian heaved again from behind the panel, and he cringed.

“Actually, I’ll meet you there. Need to make sure my friend gets back to his cabin first.”

She sighed, and gave him a sympathetic glance. “He was pretty green all through the photo shoot, too. He should pick a different profession.”

Vaughn kissed her again, and promised to follow her soon. After she left, he retrieved a cold cloth from one of the drawers at the bar.

His buddy finally finished, and Vaughn gave him the compress for his neck. “Ever considered hypnotism?”

D glared, and drank more water, slower this time.

“The bird has a point.” A tall man in board shorts and a silk shirt stepped over, carrying a highball glass full of an amber liquid.

Bourbon, Vaughn guessed. From the British accent and lopsided smirk, he was either there to flirt, or sell something.

“You look like you need a new profession.”

Definitely selling something.

“Occupational hazard,” Vaughn replied. “Comes with the territory.”