Even in paradise, beautiful faces can hide scarred souls.
ONE tropical island.
Placida Island’s gentle ocean breezes and rolling surf beckon to those who wish to reside in remote tropical serenity.
TWO men living in self-imposed exile.
Wearing twisted ropes of mutilated skin on his back and carrying devastating damage in his soul from severe childhood abuse, Matthew North lives alone in a rustic cabin on the shore, avoiding human contact.
Gender fluidity his perceived “crime” against family and friends, Vedie Wilson flees his childhood home so he can freely express his identity.
THREE persecutors seeking their warped view of justice.
Vedie’s past refuses to stay in the faraway city he left behind when family members, intent on forcing him to change, threaten the precious peace he’s found.
TOO MANY scars to count.
Their beautiful faces masking deeply scarred souls, Matt and Vedie live in hiding from the world and each other.
Can they unite and embrace each other’s painful pasts, leaving the scars behind, to find love?
By ten, I’m sweaty as a deckhand from bussing tables on the beach, and I’m sorely in need of a brew or six. But seeing as I’ve got no cash to burn, I’m gonna have to leave my coworkers—who’re revving up over by the tiki bar—to their night of hard partying. I grab my leopard-print backpack from the hook on the back wall of the bar and head to the men’s room to turn into the other me.
And just as I figured, Joey’s waiting on me there. “You gonna come party with us tonight, sweet Vedie?”
“No can do, Joey, much as I want to.” Safe inside a stall, I pull off my sweaty green The Only Tiki Hut on Placida Island work T-shirt. As soon as I replace it with a dark red, stretchy lace off-the-shoulder number, I can breathe easy. Next, I strip off my khaki shorts and yank on my favorite black velvet pair. Even though I’ve gotta ride my bike home, I kick my high-tops into my backpack and slide on a pair of jeweled flip-flops. After taking a quick piss, I head out of the stall and plant my ass in front of the mirror beside Joey, who’s standing there like he’s got nothing better to do than count the drips of water leaking from the faucet.
“Lookin’ good, pretty Miss Vedie…mmmhmm…”
No matter if I’m dressed like a dude or a lady, Joey always stares at me like I’m a juicy bowl of strawberry shortcake—he licks his lips, and I know he wants to take himself a nice big bite of a flavor he can’t get at home. Then he slaps his hand hard against my thigh, and creepy-slow, it climbs my leg. It’s headed for my ass cheek, or my name ain’t Vedie Wilson.
“Hands out of the cookie jar, Joey, my man.” I don’t appreciate it when any dude gropes me without asking for permission first. But the sad truth is I’m never gonna want Joey’s hands on me. While he gawks, I pull a shimmery hairband out of my bag and wrap it around my head to hold the damp dreads off my face. “Got yourself a sweet tooth, looks like, Joey. You’d be wise to get your ass home to your sweet wife, not that you asked me for no words of wisdom.”
“Not gonna even think about goin’ home ’til I had me some fun,” Joey replies, jamming his hand in his pocket—probably to keep it from curving around my ass.
When I bend to rinse the sweat off my face, he stays quiet and doesn’t goose me. Maybe this time he heard what I told him about getting his ass home to Mrs. Joey. But more likely he’s checking out my butt.
“Baybeee…uh-huh…mmmhmm…nice ass you got there in them sweet little shorts…”
I sigh real loud, “I’ve got some shit to do here, big dawg, so if that’s all you wanted.” The only way to get this guy to take a hike is to tell him point-blank that he’s gotta head on out. “Catch ya on the flip side.”
He leans in so close his scratchy beard brushes my neck, and I shiver in the bad way. He takes a deep sniff—I guess he likes the smell of sweaty dude—and then finally bails. And right about now, I sorely wish the tiki hut restaurant had one of those one-person anything goes restrooms—for a dude, a lady, or whoever you feel like at the moment—but at least now I’m finally alone in the men’s room.
I pull out my makeup bag and quickly powder my nose so it doesn’t shine in the moonlight, and I glide a deep shade of maroon over my lips. But I take the time to be an artist with my eyeliner and mascara because I figure eyes oughta say something. When I look good enough that I’d wanna do me if I got hot for ladies, I figure I’m looking good enough for public viewing. And my new perfume smells like the freedom I’ve got down here on Placida Island—coconuts and wildflowers and the ocean and honey. I spray it on heavy all over my neck and chest.
As I saunter out of the men’s room, I don’t miss that it’s funny how I went in here looking all-dude, but coming out, you could mistake me for a lady. Ha! More like a red-hot, sexy mama—smooth and silky everywhere except for the four-day beard.
I’m a guy, though, even when I’m dressed this fine. And in my opinion—not that anybody gives two shits what I think—the combo of smooth legs and a stubbly chin says, in your face, assholes! I don’t have to choose how I show myself to the world anymore.
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—one in law school, another at a dance conservatory, a third studying at Mia’s alma mater, Boston College, and her lone son still in high school. She has published more than twenty books of LGBTQ romance when not editing National Honor Society essays, offering opinions on college and law school applications, helping to create dance bios, and reviewing English papers. Her husband of twenty-five years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about this, as it is a sensitive subject.
Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships. She has a great affinity for the tortured hero in literature, and as a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with tales of tortured heroes and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to NineStar Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.
Her books have been featured in Kirkus Reviews magazine, and have won Rainbow Awards for Best Transgender Contemporary Romance and Best YA Lesbian Fiction, a Reader Views’ Book by Book Publicity Literary Award, the Jack Eadon Award for Best Book in Contemporary Drama, an Indie Fab Award, and a Royal Dragonfly Award for Cultural Diversity, among other awards.
Mia Kerick is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology. Contact Mia at email@example.com or visit at www.miakerickya.com to see what is going on in Mia’s world.