Hiding Behind a Mask

By Susanne Matthews, author of Just for the WeekendIn Plain Sight, and Fire Angel

Just for the WeekendAt one time or another, we all hide behind masks—some are real, others are those we create to hide ourselves from the world. As a child, I loved to play dress-up. I’d put on my mother’s old clothes, slip my feet, shoes and all into her old shoes, and pretend I was a lady, a princess, whatever my imagination would suggest that day. My favorite holiday was Halloween because—you guessed it—I could dress up in a costume. Back in my day—when dinosaurs roamed the earth—we didn’t have the elaborate costumes children have today. If you were lucky, and your mom could sew, you might have a fancy costume, but most of us made do with what we could put together from the rag bag. The main thing was to have fun.

As I aged, the thrill of home-made costumes faded, but the excitement of dressing up didn’t. In high school, I joined the Drama Club because as part of the cast in a play, you got to dress up and wear makeup. Once I was too old to trick or treat, I didn’t give up my Halloween costumes. I attended parties instead, and we always had a Halloween dance at school. My penchant for costumes continued at university where I attended toga parties and all the rest of the crazy dress-up functions. Of course the Spring Ball, the annual formal dance held in one of the city’s fancy hotels, was my favorite.

Even after I married, Halloween was still a time for costumes and fun. As a teacher, I’d put on some kind of outfit for the day, and occasionally I stayed dressed-up to trick or treat with my children. When How to Host a Mystery, role playing party games, came out, the thrill of not only dressing up but pretending to be someone else was too great a lure to miss. To this day, we still talk about some of those dinner experiences. It’s amazing how assuming a role can change a person and when you add alcohol, the change isn’t always one for the better.

No matter how old we are, we’re still kids at heart, and the idea of putting on a costume and pretending to be someone or something else is strong in all of us. It’s the main draw for Mardi Gras celebrations, masquerade balls, Halloween parties, and of course sci-fi conventions like the one on which I based Just for the Weekend.

Cleo James is in a rut. She knows she needs to break free, but she’s not daring. Her life is predictable, and she lives her days and nights within the stringent moral code within which she’s been raised. What would it be like for her to leave a sad, predictable life behind for a few hours or days and pretend to be someone else with a different name and occupation? It isn’t going to be for the duration, just a weekend—what could go wrong? My research revealed some of the nastier side of those events, a side I hadn’t realized existed. Most people go to the conventions to have fun. Others turn into obnoxious jerks when they hide behind a mask. The booze doesn’t help matters either.  Sadly, the monster behind the mask is probably that way all the time—he just has a better day-to-day disguise. Cleo has to deal with a few of those in her quest to have a fun weekend. Just for the Weekend is what can happen when you set your inhibitions aside, take a risk, and step out of the box. Who knows what you’ll find? It just might be love.

About Just for the Weekend:

It’s time to play with the grown-ups.

Kindergarten teacher Cleo James needs a change. Three years at her widowed dad’s beck and call are enough. A weekend in Vegas at a sci-fi convention with her best friend will do for now, and the hot guy who wants to spend time with her only adds to her excitement. After all—it’s just for the weekend. What can possibly go wrong?

Multimillionaire Sam Mason is sick of gold diggers. He’s looking for someone who’ll fall for him, not his wallet. When he meets a shy, green-skinned slave girl, she pushes all his buttons—the best part is she has no idea who he is and mistakenly believes he’s a Chippendale. Between the sexual attraction and too much alcohol, he wakes up married to his green-skinned beauty, but the bride has vanished. Finding her will be a lot harder than he thinks.

~

Excerpt from Just for the Weekend:

Cleo followed Mitch into the convention hall packed with hundreds of people in various alien costumes, and allowed some of the excitement in the air to calm her fears. She recognized outfits from various sci-fi movies and television shows. There were several Orion slave girls in a variety of shapes, shades, and sizes, and Cleo saw the not-so-friendly glares she got from them—especially when one of their male friends stared admiringly at her. She nodded in return and chuckled when one girl gave the guy she was with a jab in the ribs.

She tried to keep up with Mitch, who barreled across the room as if she were in a speed-walking race. Barefoot as she was, conscious of the icky, sticky carpet, Cleo moved slowly to avoid stomping boots and heels. She’d almost made it to the promised land of booth security when a giant, in snake-like makeup and the dark gray leather and chain mail associated with the Cardassians, grabbed her arm. He spun her around quickly.

“Hey, let go of my …” Her angry words died on her lips.

“What have we here?” He eyed her hungrily. “Are you lost, my pretty little slave girl?”

Familiar chocolate eyes pierced hers, and she couldn’t think straight. His whiskey-smooth voice caressed her; his touch ignited a fire along her spine. Realizing what he’d said, she searched for an answer.

“Lost? No, I got separated from my Klingon friend. She’s over there.”

She pointed to the publishers’ autograph area where Mitch stood.

“Then allow me to escort you safely to her.”

Holding her close to him, he ushered her across the congested convention floor. He bowed to Mitch and gave the Cardassian salute.

“I believe she’s yours, but I’m entitled to a reward for coming to her assistance.”

He smiled wickedly before pulling Cleo into his arms and capturing her mouth with his.

Cleo held herself rigid, but the kiss poured liquid fire through her. Of their own volition, her arms wrapped around his neck both to hold her upright and to encourage the incredible sensations to continue. His mouth devoured hers as if she was his last meal. She’d been kissed before, but never like this. When he slowly pulled away, she was breathless. She read desire in his eyes.

“Later, my Orion beauty.” He turned and walked away, disappearing into the crowd.

 “Who the hell is that?”

“I have no idea.” Cleo reached for Mitch’s blue-tinted Romulan ale and drained the glass.