However, when writing Rogue, my newest release, I realized there are still few things I haven’t done, and many of them made it onto the bucket list that plays a pivotal role in the book. Rogue is about McKenzie Prescott, who’s trying to complete her dead Navy SEAL brother’s bucket list, but it turns out the bucket list is really a map that everyone wants to get their hands on, including the very hot former Navy SEAL who offers to help her, but who isn’t quite who she thinks she is. I love the idea of bucket lists—of deliberately announcing to yourself and the universe your intention to experience everything life has to offer. When you think about it, a bucket list is a way of ensuring you have a full life and always win (or lose, lol) every game of Never Have I Ever.
Following are a few things McKenzie does on her brother’s bucket list. Want to play?
Never have I ever…
- Had an all-nighter in Vegas.
After jumping off a waterfall in Costa Rica, McKenzie travels to Las Vegas with her two best friends for a weekend of non-stop fun. For a girl who spent her high school and college years watching her mother slowly die while everyone else went to parties, it’s intoxicating. It’s there that she meets the heart-stoppingly beautiful Noah Payne, who’s intoxicating in a whole different way…
Brynley: I never have. Despite Las Vegas making an appearance in almost every book I’ve written (it’s clearly an obsession) and being the setting of my book The Power Games, I’ve never been to Las Vegas, much less had an all-nighter there. It’s definitely on my bucket list.
- Made out with a stranger.
When McKenzie sees the gorgeous, dangerous-looking, but oh-so-sexy man watching her across the dance floor in Vegas, she throws caution to the wind and approaches him. One thing leads to another, and she ends up having a major make out session with him.
Brynley: I have (opens the bottle and takes a drink). On a spring break trip to South Padre Island in college, I made a bet with a friend over who could kiss the most guys. (I won.)
- Sailed the Philippines
Her brother’s bucket list takes McKenzie sailing through the islands of the Philippines. The sexy former Navy SEAL Noah Payne has offered to help her, and together they explore the islands, and each other, while ticking items off the list (including a few racy ones).
Brynley: I have never. Researching the islands of the Philippines, and Palawan and the islands of the Bacuit Archipelago in particular, definitely gave me travel lust. I’m not sure there is anywhere on Earth more beautiful. But I get major motion sickness (seriously…I have to get into a bathtub carefully so I don’t make too many waves), so seeing the Philippines this way unfortunately isn’t on my bucket list.
- Sung karaoke in a bar
While sailing the Philippines, McKenzie and Noah kayak to one of the islands for the night and visit a beachside bar. Naturally reserved and cautious (not to mention prone to anxiety-attacks), McKenzie is growing bolder and more adventurous with each item she completes on her bucket list, and with each kiss from Noah. At the bar, she surprises herself and Noah by going on stage and singing karaoke.
Brynley: I have never. How that’s possible since I live in Texas and have been known to go to a bar or two is beyond me. This one is near the top of my bucket list, and much easier to achieve than say, seeing the Northern Lights (also at the top). But I may need play a few rounds of Never Have I Ever beforehand.
- Learned to Salsa Dance
McKenzie learns to salsa dance at a continuing education class at her local community college before embarking on her adventures, and she’s thrilled to put what she learned into practice with a guy she meets at the bar, especially since it makes Noah jealous. Despite their amazing chemistry (or because of it), he’s determined to not get too involved with McKenzie. But there are a few more…intimate things on the bucket list, and if Noah won’t help her, she’s determined to find someone who will. Then Noah cuts in, and she realizes her dance lessons didn’t prepare her for dancing with a partner whose sensuous moves and whose hands on her body set her senses on fire.
Brynley: I have never. But it’s on the list, despite the fact that I have zero rhythm.
- Moved outside your comfort zone, done things that scared you, and in the process, learned to live and love again.
This is the true lesson of the bucket list (both in Rogue and in real life). As McKenzie pushes herself beyond her comfort zone, both in completing the items on the list and in her relationship with Noah, she finds out that she is stronger and braver than she thought she was, and is finally able to reach out and grab the life she’s always wanted but been too afraid to claim—a life of surrender, abandon, and fulfillment.
Brynley: Finishes off the bottle and drops the mic.
Brynley Blake (aka Brynley Bush) has had a lifelong love affair with words. She earned her degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Texas at Austin and wrote magazine feature stories for years before turning to writing fiction. She writes the kind of books she likes to read: steamy contemporary romances featuring smart, sassy heroines with a sense of humor and strong, dominant alpha males who love their women a little feisty.
She loves adventures, rainy days, books, worn-in jeans, hot coffee, cold beer, red wine, exploring new places, and happily ever afters. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her cheering on her kids at their activities, hanging out with friends, or crossing things off her bucket list. She writes contemporary and erotic romance as Brynley Blake and Brynley Bush.