Most of us have a special place we think of when we long to escape the real world. My husband likes any frigid and fishy lake in Maine, a holdover from his Boy Scout days. But I’m a beach baby. And how I wish I could escape this Maine winter right now. Give me some sand in my bathing suit and peanut butter sandwich, the smell of Coppertone and I’ll be a girl again, hanging out with my parents in the dunes.

That’s right. My parents. Bet you thought I’d talk about my old boyfriend the lifeguard. But the fact is, every weekend when I was growing up, I went to Jones Beach with my parents at the crack of dawn. My father was big on “beating the crowd.” Consequently we had the Atlantic Ocean to ourselves, because sensible people were still in bed. My father would mix up a huge jug of grapefruit juice and vodka for breakfast (none for me), set up an umbrella and chair for himself and a chaise lounge in the sun for my mother. He brought binoculars, not to watch the seagulls. When I got a little older I was permitted to move my blanket down toward the water, and he kept an eagle eye on me and my friends so we wouldn’t drown or, worse, get picked up by pimply boys.

There is something about the pull of the waves. Who can forget the infamous sex-on-the-beach scene in Inflammation From Here to Eternity with Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster? I’ve used the sea scenario myself in a novella that might be a novel someday. My characters, Neil McInnis and Abigail Anthony, are swimming in Scotland somewhere around 1850.

“Race you,” she said, looking behind her and laughing.

“You’re a cheater, Miss Anthony. You know what happens to cheaters.” Neil was catching up, but she plunged into the surf first. Every inch of her smooth skin contracted into gooseflesh. She dove under the dull green water and came up sputtering, her black hair a midnight curtain of silk.

“Water witch” said Neil softly. “Selkie.”

Abby grinned, wondering if her lips were as blue as the sky above. “It’s odd you should say that,” she said, wiping the sea’s tears from her lashes before their sting made them hers. “My two older sisters, very proper, perfect, teased me all the time. They called me Little Witch, and I would cry my eyes out. I vowed to cast a spell on them.”

“You’ve certainly cast a spell on me.”

Abby stopped bobbing in the water and became very still.

Neil reached for her, drew her close, his chest pleasantly abraded by the coarse wool of her bathing costume. He combed his fingers through her hair, tracing it as it fell to the small of her back.

She could feel his hardness. Everywhere. Something loosened within her as she sought his mouth.

Just a small kiss.

She closed her eyes and felt his arms encircle her more tightly in the choppy waves.

There was nothing small about any of it. He kissed her deeply, his tongue probing and teasing until her weightless body wrapped around him. His lips moved down her throat to feel her pulse racing, taste the salt and her sweetness.

This was madness.

Questions and Culture:

So, where’s your special place to escape the madness? I’ll be at the shore—with plenty of sunblock.

When you write, do you put your lovers in a feather bed, or are they apt to be found on the library floor?

Reveal a favorite love scene that you’ve read that isn’t all under the covers.

Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port,—
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!
– Emily Dickinson

The painting is Psamathe by Lord Frederick Leighton, c. 1880. My lucky daughter did an internship at the Leighton House Museum in London in the summer of 2004.