“They were supposed to end up on a boat.” — Survival Instincts’ First Draft
If you’ve read Survival Instincts, you know how it ends. Did you also know that’s not at all how the story ended in my first draft? About two thirds of Survival Instincts were rewritten during the editing process, mostly because I hadn’t done a very good job with the first draft. I’d left so many logic gaps that the path the story took wasn’t logical anymore. Once I plugged one hole, another popped up, and eventually, the story turned into the novel that hit stores.
Trust me, it’s a lot better than the first draft!
Something that always amused me is that in the first draft, Lynn and Dani ended up journeying to whatever was left of Mexico on a reconstructed sailboat. In that first draft, it was Lynn who got hurt and Dani who brought her back to the Homestead. While recovering, Flint reads Moby Dick to her, and ends up giving her his copy. This sparked the idea to hit the sea where they would be safe from any more humans and animals once they’d made their escape.
I dredged up the epilogue of that very first draft for you, for your reading (or laughing) pleasure.
The salty sea breeze gripped Lynn’s unbound hair the second she popped her head up from below deck. She shook her head to get her curls out of her eyes and hoisted herself out of the cabin, then blinked against the glare of the sun as she took in the paradise around her. Three sides of the boat were completely void of anything but water. The shoreline was a long strip of perfect white sand, followed by a dense tree line. Monkey howls made their way across the water whenever the wind twisted itself correctly. After a moment, she carefully started making her way down to the front of the boat. Lynn’s calloused hands took hold of rope and railing as she traversed the distance. She might already be naked, but she didn’t need another bath.
Overhead, a gull squawked but beyond that small sound, it was quiet. Everything was as it should be. The waves rolling onto the shore a way’s off and breaking on sharp spiky rocks had become a reassuring constant as the night wore on. Taunt ropes hit the steel mast as the wind caught them. The wood under her feet creaked as she stepped on a bit of the deck that she knew needed replacing. She just hadn’t gotten to it yet. Soon. Maybe tomorrow, after their planned monkey hunt.
The sounds of the sea and the boat were no longer foreign like they had been a few months ago. They were the sounds of home now. It might not be big, it might not be completely whole, but the ‘Second Wind’ had carried them down the coastline for months now, safely away from bears and raiders.
Dani looked up when Lynn approached. She smiled and leaned her bare back against Lynn’s body when the latter wrapped around her from behind and rested her chin on Dani’s shoulder after kissing it.
“Morning. How is breakfast coming along?”
Dani grumbled, but Lynn could tell she was smiling, regardless.
Dani pulled at the fishing rod in her hands lightly, agitating the bait on the end of the line.
“Skeever is hungry.”
Dani hooked the rod into a holder attached to the deck and twisted in Lynn’s arms. “That lazy mutt is probably still asleep inside,” Dani said, calling her bluff. “You are the one that is begging for food when there is perfectly decent monkey jerky left over from our last hunt.”
Lynn pouted. “I know, but I want fish.”
Dani’s eyes sparkled when they met hers. “You are a terrible partner, settler.”
Lynn sputtered. “Am not!”
“Then grab a rod and catch your own fish,” Dani teased. “First I have to fix a boat almost on my own because a certain someone couldn’t lift worth a damn, and now I’m suddenly in charge of breakfast as well?”
“Are you ever going to let me live that down?” Lynn said, faux offended. “I got mauled by a bear! See?” She leaned back and pointed at the seven parallel pink lines on her bare torso that had not tanned along with the rest of her. They had all healed, though, even the worst of them. That one, especially, was jagged and ugly but Dani always made sure to pay it extra attention as she kissed and licked a path down Lynn’s body towards her sex. As such, Lynn didn’t mind it much.
“Oh, I was there.” Dani huffed. “Still, if you don’t like the breakfast arrangements, you can take care of your own.”
Instead of answering, Lynn grinned and took Dani’s cheeks in her hands before capturing her lips with her own. She could feel Dani smile as the brunette allowed Lynn to pull her down to the deck, on top of her. The breakfast Lynn had in mind now didn’t require the sea they had come to rely on for survival.
“You are so annoying sometimes.” Dani didn’t sound annoyed at all. The hand that already wandered over Lynn’s side didn’t feel annoyed either, just hungry.
“But you love me.” Lynn hummed against her lips before licking them with the tip of her tongue.
Dani shivered. “I do.” Now, even the teasing annoyance had melted away, making the words sincere and heartfelt.
The sparrow skull on Lynn’s necklace gently scraped the deck as Lynn pushed up to kiss Dani harder, deeper. She wrapped her legs around the brunette’s hips and rubbed the back of her thighs with her bare heels. “I love you.”
Dani pressed her back down and broke the kiss so she could look down at her, love clear in her hazel eyes. “I love you.”
Lynn stroked tangled hair aside, then took Dani’s eternally present braid between her fingers and guided her down again. Like always, Dani’s skin tasted salty when Lynn begun to explore already blessedly familiar terrain.
With the sounds of the sea all around them, safely away from anything or anyone that could hurt them, Lynn gave into base desires without a thought to any potential dangers. The wind couldn’t get a hold of them because the patchwork sails were wrapped. The boat stayed stationary because of the anchor they had salvaged off another ship in New York’s marina. They were nowhere near the rocks. The wide-open sea showed no sign of another boat and the strip of coast that belonged to one of the nameless islands on their map, located in an area named ‘The Bahamas’ was abandoned.
Dani’s rod bobbed up and down as a fish hooked on, but Dani’s hands, mouth, and mind were otherwise occupied. Lynn caught the motion but focused on Dani’s lips and tongue instead. There were things more important than food, after all.
They had come a long way since the day they had first met. Lynn could truly say that without Dani, she would not be alive right now. Dani had saved her after the bear attack, of course, but she had been a rock throughout the weeks that followed.
Dani had pretty much dragged her through the streets of New York City on the way to the harbor and hadn’t complained once. For weeks, Lynn had been unable to do more than weave strong ropes and sew together a sail to fit the small sailboat they had found in dry dock upon reaching the marina. Dani had replaced all the wood, had scavenged other ships for anything and everything missing from theirs, had done the heavy lifting once it became time to see if the Second Wind was water worthy—let alone sea worthy—and in the meantime Dani had also hunted for their food, had taken care of Lynn’s injuries and had dealt with a grumpy blonde who hated doing all the gathering, cooking, cleaning, and sitting around.
The only moments of weakness Dani had allowed herself were when she wondered what had become of her old campmates. They had talked regularly—and still did—about Ren’s baby, about how Toby would be doing, and about how Dean was faring. Sadly, there had been no way to find out if the group had remained intact and how its members were doing because they hadn’t been able to risk contact, not with them, nor with any other nearby camp out of fear of discovery. So, they had focused on the boat and the journey ahead.
Most of Lynn’s days had been spent reading Moby dick to Dani again and again to the point where they could both recite many of the passages. Once on the water, it was actual Herman Melville who had kept them alive. The knowledge they had gleaned from the page about life on the water may have been fictional—they didn’t actually know; Lynn was sure it was just a story, Dani kept an open mind—but it had given them a start on figuring out how the boat worked, how they could plot a course along the shore, how they could throw out an anchor and not drift off too much through the night. Of course, they had still come close to dying quite often in those first few weeks, but they had made it.
The three of them had managed to figure everything out from how the boat worked, to how they could get enough food and water for all of them to survive, to how the sleeping arrangements were. Skeever was the only one unhappy with the latter as he was often sent from the bed and put out on the deck when Lynn and Dani wanted some privacy.
They had a routine that consisted of getting basic necessities and enjoying each other as much as possible, but they didn’t have a plan. ‘South’, that was all they had agreed upon. Live. Love. Be safe. They would figure out a plan should winter catch up to them. For now, all two women and a dog making their way through the Wilds together needed, were safety and each other.
That and the freedom of the wide-open sea.
This post is part of the WLW Author Blog Hop Series organized by A.E Radley entitled Writing My First Novel. Each blog post will link to another author so you can discover more about how they wrote their first novel. For me, that’s Emily L. Byrne.
Check out Emily L. Byrne on writing Medusa’s Touch, her first (but not really) novel, using short fiction as a building block and fun with tentacles (sort of). Emily L Byrne is the author of a science fiction erotic romance, Medusa’s Touch and two short erotica collections, Knife’s Edge and Desire. Her short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies, including Cleis Press’ Best Lesbian Erotica series. Click here to hop to Emily L. Byrne’s blog!
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