Sigil Fire: An Excerpt

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Grab your pre-order copy of this Lesbian Paranormal Fantasy by USA Today Bestselling Author Erzabet Bishop!
 
 
Sonia is a succubus with one goal: stay off Hell’s radar. But when succubi start to die, including her sometimes lover, Jeannie, she’s drawn into battle between good and evil and a past that isn’t ready to let her go.
 
Fae is a blood witch turned vampire, running a tattoo parlor and trading her craft for blood. She notices that something isn’t right on the streets of her city. The denizens of Hell are restless. 
 
With the aid of her nest mate, Perry, and his partner, Charley, she races against time before the next victim falls. The killer has a target in his sights, and Sonia might not live to see the dawn.
 
**Includes First Christmas: A Sigil Fire Holiday Story**
 
#FF #Lesfic #succubus #vampires #demons #witches #lesbian #paranormal #fantasy #romantic #suspense #strongfemalelead #alphafemale


 

 
Excerpt:
 
The dream wrapped around Fae like gossamer silk. It was always the same. The woman’s back was to Fae—shapely curves illuminated against the shadows, the stranger’s face just out view. They were in a dark and winding alley, with the back side of row houses and businesses cluttered with dumpsters and badly repaired fences. The area behind the shops looked ramshackle and smelled worse. A combination of rotting garbage and the reek of something far worse.
A sense of urgency pounded through Fae. She needed to find this woman. Needed to find her now.
Dark demonic wings fluttered in the background, causing the mystery woman to flee. Her skirts whipped up, revealing calves that sucked the air from Fae’s lungs.
An aura of silvery wings hung behind the woman, vanishing as quickly as they appeared. The alleyway grew disjointed—a true setting from a nightmare. The red of her hair was only visible for a moment.
“Help me!” the woman’s sultry voice begged, out of breath and shrill with terror.
Fae’s dream self darted behind her. Shadowy faces and writhing figures moved in the periphery of her vision. She stared straight ahead. She had to focus. To find the woman.
“Wait!” She reached out, but only caught the tendrils of mist that filled the void.
The air chilled as Fae streaked through the fog. A fractured scream echoed in the murky dampness. Seeing anything became more difficult. The swampy odor of decay made Fae gag but still she pressed on. Don’t look. Just move.
Fae panicked. “Where are you?” The need to find the woman was overwhelming. There was something important about her. Even if Fae didn’t know what it was—she had to find the stranger. With her heart racing, Fae kept moving.
“Stop!” A terrible scream rang out in the darkness.
Fae’s pulse thrummed in her throat; her fangs clenched in fear. Where was she? Fae’s footsteps rang hollow as she ran, eyes searching, senses reaching out for any sign of the woman. Around her the buildings changed. Cold concrete walls penned her in. There was only one way to go. Forward.
A dim figure loomed in the distance, barely visible against the mists. Large wings unfolded, the odor of sulfur and dark rotting things made her sour stomach flip once more. The sound of tearing clothes and panicked screams met her ears. Shit.
Fae snarled, racing toward the sound of sobbing. Her boots hit the pavement, puddles of water and filth spraying out as she ran.
There was the mystery woman. Long, red hair draped over the concrete, defiled by the refuse on the ground surrounding her.
A streetlight shone bright in the foggy night air, and Fae was finally able to see the woman’s face around the creature that held the woman prisoner in its grip.
Full, red lips parted in shock as the demon’s fingers tightened around her throat. With her wide eyes brilliant and dark against her ivory complexion, it was clear she was dying. Her gaze met Fae’s, a panicked expression of recognition, and as she looked at her attacker, fear.
Fae stepped forward. “Get off her, asshole,” she hissed, taking another step forward.
The being turned its head, empty eyes staring right into her soul.
“Fae.” Its lips tilted up into a satanic grin and he turned, revealing more of the partially nude woman.
Fae startled and took a step back. “How do you know me?” Her hand felt for a blade at her side. Nothing. Dammit!
Fae would have to try and save the mystery woman with only her strength.
Her fingers brushed the oily feathers of the demon’s wings, intent on pulling it away from the girl, but instead she ended up with nothing.
Dark laughter filled the hollow passage, and in a burst of noxious smoke, the being was gone.
Fae spun on her heel trying to see where it had gone, then moved back and knelt at the woman’s side. “Red.”
“Find me,” the woman whispered, her eyes locking onto Fae’s. A delicate smile drifted across her lips as she, too, began to fade into the mist.
“No!” Fae’s heart twisted in her chest. Just when she had found her, the woman was lost yet again. “No!” Despair clogged her throat.
The shadows of the alley loomed dark as the streetlight fell dim.
***
Fae jerked awake. She lay twisted in the sheets. Her breath came in gasps as the dream faded, leaving her cold and alone in her bed. She had seen the stranger’s face. Finally.
Her dog, Jellybean, whined in the darkness and snuggled in closer, her furry black face burrowing deep under the covers.
“Red,” she whispered. “I’ll find you.”
Staring out the window into the moonless night, Fae listened as the wind whipped the trees outside into a frenzy. Something was coming. But so was she.
 
 

About the author:

Erzabet Bishop is a two time USA Today award-winning and bestselling author of paranormal and erotic romance. She lives in Houston, Texas and when she isn’t writing about sexy shifters or voluptuous heroines she enjoys playing in local bookstores and watching movies with her husband and furry kids.


Sign up for her newsletter for more lesfic reads!


https://erzabetwrites.wixsite.com/lesficandlipstick

 

 

Pre-Order Now! Sigil Fire by USA Today Bestselling Author Erzabet Bishop

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Grab your pre-order copy of this Lesbian Paranormal Fantasy by USA Today Bestselling Author Erzabet Bishop!
 
 
Sonia is a succubus with one goal: stay off Hell’s radar. But when succubi start to die, including her sometimes lover, Jeannie, she’s drawn into battle between good and evil and a past that isn’t ready to let her go.
 
Fae is a blood witch turned vampire, running a tattoo parlor and trading her craft for blood. She notices that something isn’t right on the streets of her city. The denizens of Hell are restless. 
 
With the aid of her nest mate, Perry, and his partner, Charley, she races against time before the next victim falls. The killer has a target in his sights, and Sonia might not live to see the dawn.
 
**Includes First Christmas: A Sigil Fire Holiday Story**
 
#FF #Lesfic #succubus #vampires #demons #witches #lesbian #paranormal #fantasy #romantic #suspense #strongfemalelead #alphafemale

 

The Witches of Gloucester by Lisabet Sarai

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TheWitchesOfGloucester_400 (1)

19,000 words

Genre: Lesbian paranormal erotic romance (FFF)

Heat level: Explicit (5 flames)

Includes special bonus story “Late Show”

ISBN (Smashwords): 9780463719466

ASIN (Amazon):  B07DBB3ZTN

 

Tag Line

 

Its not about power. Its about love.

 

Blurb

 

The historic port of Gloucester, Massachusetts has a special charm, due at least in part to its resident witches. For decades, raven-maned Marguerite and red-headed Beryl have lived among its hard-working inhabitants, making magic and mischief. Love and sex fuel their supernatural abilities, but duality limits their power. To reach their full potential, they need a third witch to complete their circle.

 

Rejected as a nymphomaniac by her puritanical boyfriend, Emmeline escapes to Gloucester to work on her PhD thesis. From the moment she arrives, Marguerite and Beryl sense her erotic vitality and unrecognized paranormal talent. The platinum-haired beauty may well be the enchantress they have been awaiting for so long. Now they need to show Em that her prodigious libido is a gift, not a liability, and to persuade her that her destiny lies in the sea-girt town they guard, and in their arms.

 

SPECIAL BONUS: Also includes “Late Show”, a contemporary FF erotic romance tale about second chances.

 

Short Blurb

 

The historic port of Gloucester, Massachusetts has a special charm, due in part to its resident witches. For decades, raven-maned Marguerite and red-headed Beryl have lived among its hard-working inhabitants, making magic and mischief. To reach their full potential, they need a third witch to complete their circle. Platinum-haired newcomer Emmeline might be the woman they’ve been waiting for.

 

Keywords

 

witches, Gloucester, seacoast, lesbian, LGBTQ, strap-on, ritual, magic, supernatural, history, erotic romance, Midsummer’s Night,  

 

Buy Links

 

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DBB3ZTN/

 

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07DBB3ZTN/

 

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/832808

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-witches-of-gloucester-lisabet-sarai/1128809847?

 

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/th/en/ebook/the-witches-of-gloucester-1

 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40234194-the-witches-of-gloucester

 

 

ONLINE EXCERPT LINK (X rated): http://www.lisabetsarai.com/witchesex.html

 

PG Excerpt

 

“Will she come, do you think?” Marguerite gestured toward the 1930’s brass Commodore clock on the mantel, which read ten minutes past four. “She looked so nervous yesterday – as if she thought we’d eat her alive.”

 

“Well, actually, when you put it that way…” Beryl allowed herself a lecherous chuckle.

 

Her companion gave her an exasperated grin. “This is not a joke. You know as well as I what is at stake.”

 

“Don’t worry, Mar. She’ll be here, though she may have to wrestle a few doubts into submission first. She feels the pull, just as we do, even if she doesn’t understand it.”

 

“Well, I do hope she arrives soon.” Marguerite surveyed the elegant table she’d set. She picked up a Blue Willow porcelain teacup and wiped away an imaginary smudge. “The icing on the petit fours is melting.”

 

As if in answer, chimes tinkled at the front of the house and a hint of fresh air slipped in the open door, bringing the ubiquitous tang of salt. From his corner cage, Marguerite’s mynah, Jonah, exactly mimicked the sound of the doorbell. Beryl jumped to her feet. “I’ll go show her to the parlor.”

 

“No, no – let Gloria do that. We don’t want to spook her with excess enthusiasm. Settle down and compose yourself. Remember, you’re a member of the Ladies’ Welcome Brigade. Refined. Polite. Proper.”

 

“Proper?” Beryl grinned and thumbed her peaked nipples, obvious as always through the navy blue crepe of her blouse. Her eyes fluttered shut as she relished the sensation. “Refined? Me?”

 

Marguerite licked her full lips. She swept her palms over the plum velvet caftan that hid her thighs. “Try to pretend, darling. Just this once.”

 

Explicit Excerpt

 

In the sweet darkness, every sensation grew more acute. Marguerite deepened the kiss, sucking Emmy’s tongue into her mouth, while Beryl stroked Emmy’s back, belly and thighs. The wandering hands barely touched Emmeline’s body but everywhere they traveled, delicious heat followed.

 

Sparks danced along Em’s naked skin in the wake of Beryl’s fingers. Naked? When had she removed her clothing? Her eyes fluttered open. Shadows hung in the opulent room, shaped by candles that flickered on the mantel. It was nearly midsummer. How could the night have come so quickly?

 

Embarrassment, wonder and need warred within her.  Arousal coursed through her body in shimmering waves, so intense it was almost pain. She found herself splayed nude upon the carpet, arms flung out and erect nipples pointing at the ceiling. Her knees were bent, her thighs spread wide in lewd invitation. Moisture seeped from her exposed cleft, dampening the silky nap of the rug beneath her.

 

Beryl knelt in the gap between Em’s legs, equally naked, her porcelain-pale skin gleaming in the dimness. Candlelight struck glints from her coppery crown. Emmeline couldn’t help staring at the matching tangle hiding the woman’s sex. She ached to part that auburn curtain and taste the moist flesh it concealed.

 

The older woman grinned. Mischief glittered in her emerald eyes. “Time enough for that later, girl. The first climax must be yours. Trust us. We won’t harm you. We just want to teach you who you are.”

 

We. The plural made Emmeline wonder about Marguerite.

 

“I’m here, darling.” The lilting, cultured voice came from behind her. Em twisted backward. Marguerite knelt just above her head, thighs parted, buttocks resting on her heels. The tawny beauty’s pubic curls were mere inches from her own silvery locks, releasing clouds of tidal perfume. Flawless butterscotch-brown skin stretched over Marguerite’s lush breasts and swelling hips. Sleek muscles shifted under the smooth surface as she leaned over to brush her lips across Emmeline’s.

 

Even that brief contact sent lightning sizzling to Em’s cunt.  For an instant she teetered on the edge of climax, before the luscious pressure subsided.

 

“Shall we take you, Emmeline?” Maguerite’s question wound its way into Emmeline’s consciousness, through a haze of lust. “You must ask us. The ritual requires it.”

 

About Lisabet Sarai

 

LISABET SARAI writes in many genres, but F/F fiction is one of her favorites. Her lesbian erotica credits include contributions to Lambda Award winner Where the Girls Are, Ippie-winning Carnal Machines, Best Lesbian Romance 2012, Forbidden Fruit: Stories of Unwise Lesbian  Desire,  and Lammy-nominated Coming Together: Girl on Girl. Her story “The Late Show” appears in the recently released Best Lesbian Erotica 2015.

 

Lisabet holds more degrees than anyone would ever need, from prestigious educational institutions who would no doubt be deeply embarrassed by her explicit literary endeavors. She has traveled widely and currently lives in Southeast Asia, where she pursues an alternative career that is completely unrelated to her writing. For all the dirt on Lisabet, visit her website (http://www.lisabetsarai.com) or her blog Beyond Romance (http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com).

 

 

New Release Blitz and Giveaway- Ardulum: Third Don by J.S. Fields @ninestarpress @GoIndieMarketing #FFromance #giveaway

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Title:  Ardulum: Third Don

Series: Ardulum, Book Three

Author: J.S. Fields

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: June 4, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 106100

Genre: Science Fiction, action, aliens, bonded, captivity, coming of age, criminals, futuristic, pilot, religion, science, slow burn, smugglers, space, space opera, spaceships, telekinesis, telepathy

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

The planet wakes.

Atalant is torn between two worlds. In uncharted space, head of a sentient planet, the new eld of Ardulum now leads the religion she once rejected. Emn is by her side but the Mmnnuggl war brewing in the Charted Systems, threatening her homeworld of Neek, cannot be ignored. Atalant must return to the planet that exiled her in order to lead the resistance. She must return home a god, a hypocrite, a liar in gold robes, and decide whether to thrust her unwilling people into the truth of Ardulum, or play the role she has been handed and never see her family, or her world, again.

Excerpt

Ardulum: Third Don
J.S. Fields © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
January 12th, 2061 CE

“I’ve just lost my last engine! We’re making repairs, but if we can’t dodge another hit—” The audio cut off. A small, blue light on Ekimet’s console went dark.

Inside the Neek’s main temple to Ardulum, Ekimet laid zir head in zir hands and, not for the first time, tried to will the light to come back on. It didn’t work. It never worked. All the power of Ardulum, and Ekimet couldn’t save even one Ardulan life.

The andal bench upon which zie sat lacked cushioning, and the wood was warm through Ekimet’s gold robes. Zir tailbone hurt from sitting and waiting—and zir heart hurt from watching and trying to coordinate a battle zie had no skills for. No one in the room did. The Eld had ensured that.

Ekimet brought zir head back up. Next to zir, Miketh tapped on the andal table, a thin sheet of bioplastic just beyond her reach. Her black hair had lost its red highlights. Ekimet hadn’t noticed until now, and zie didn’t have time to consider what it meant aside from neither of them having gone outside in a month.

The High Priest of Neek was on the other side of the wooden table. He was supposed to be helping, inasmuch as he could as a subspecies Neek amongst Ardulans. Right now, however, he sat, eyes unfocused, wringing his robes as he whispered, “Seven. Seven Ardulan cutters and fourteen skiffs lost.”

“Central, copy? Copy, please!” The Neek accent was clear over the transmission and startled Ekimet. It was a settee pilot, one of the Heaven Guard.

“We hear you, guard,” Miketh answered. Her hand shook as she reached for the bioplastic sheet. It was just far enough on the other side of the table that the high priest had to push it towards her. “Report?”

“The Mmnnuggl pods in orbit, both big and small, are now guarded by at least four of the oval ships the Ardulans can’t seem to hit. There are Risalian cutters out here too, and a bunch of ships I don’t recognize. No matter how much interference we run for the Ardulans, it isn’t making any difference. Nothing is making a difference. The Mmnnuggls are picking off the cutters one by one.”

“Is your squadron still intact?” Miketh asked. “No Neek casualties?”

The voice came back confused. “No, no casualties to report on our side. The Mmnnuggls only seem interested in…” On the computer console in front of Ekimet, another pale blue light went dark.

“We lost another skiff,” Ekimet reported in a monotone. “Only four remain, along with two cutters.”

“One cutter,” the guard reported hesitantly. A red light went out on Ekimet’s console. “A group of four pods just disintegrated the largest one.”

Ekimet squeezed zir eyes shut. There were over forty Ardulans on each cutter and two per skiff. It had been less than an hour since the Mmnnuggls had engaged the Ardulan fleet. What was happening? That the Ardulans and Neek would lose had never been in question, but they weren’t meant to lose like this.

Ekimet leaned towards Miketh and the speaker. “Tell the remaining cutter to—”

One of the skiff pilots cut into the feed. “We just lost our last cutter!” The last red light on Ekimet’s dash went out. “Ekimet, we have to land. We haven’t got a chance with the—” The line went dead. The final three blue lights died in quick succession.

There was silence for a long moment, followed by the uncomfortable shuffling of feet. The Ardulans were dead. Every ship the Eld had sent, every Ardulan onboard, was now scattered in fragments across Neek space. Ekimet and Miketh were…they were stranded. Again. They, and the Neek planet, had no protection.

“My lords?” The settee pilot was back. “The Mmnnuggl forces are leaving the engagement zone. Their allies are following. The Heaven Guard are still in orbit. Would you like us to follow instead of simply watching and reporting?”

“No!” Miketh said quickly before Ekimet could answer. “You have no weapons. Don’t make a threat you can’t carry through. Just…just come back.” She looked at Ekimet, moisture beading in her eyes. She hastily wiped at it with the back of her hand. “Just come home, okay?”

Relief flooded the pilot’s voice. “As you say. I’ll tell the rest of the Heaven Guard.”

The transmission ended. Miketh sniffed, and Ekimet did the same, although zie was far too well trained to let tears form.

“Is it over?” The high priest pushed his chair back from the dark andal table, his eyes on Ekimet’s chin, never higher. “Will they leave? What do they want?”

We are about to find out. Miketh pointed at the yellow line streaking across the dash. Call for you, Eki. We both know how this ends.

Indeed. They’d been sent here to die, the same as the fleet. Sent to appease the Mmnnuggls. Sent to keep Ardulum safe. Ekimet slid zir finger across the yellow line, and an audio feed beeped. Zie could have turned on the Neek’s archaic hologram projector, but…zie couldn’t look at a Mmnnuggl. Not right now. Not with so many dead bodies floating above zir.

“You have lost,” a monotone voice said over the comm.

“We understand that. Only two Ardulans remain, and we are prepared to surrender. We…we thank you for not harming the Neek forces.”

A low trill resounded before it changed to words. “Only Ardulans harm unarmed civilians. Only Ardulans would use a seeded planet of primitive sentients as a sacrifice.” The Mmnnuggl screeched. “Do you think we do not see a ruse when we see one? We have no hands and no feet, so therefore we have no minds?”

Ekimet tried to cut in. “We never meant—”

“You are of no concern to us. Two Ardulans mean nothing.” There was a whirring in the background, and then a new voice came on.

It didn’t have the usual clicking undertones of a Mmnnuggl accent. This voice, although deep and throaty, carried Common with ease. “Call your planet,” it said. “Call your planet and tell them to send the Eld of Ardulum and the flare named Emn. You have one week to comply.”

“One week!” Miketh said, her voice unusually high. “The Neek operate on stable wormhole technology. The time frame is unmanageable. Beyond that, if you aren’t bargaining with Neek lives, what is your collateral? The Neek planet is self-sustaining. They don’t care to travel. If you think Ekimet and I will get frustrated enough to call the Eld here so you can slaughter them, you’re as dumb as we thought!”

Laughter, biped laughter, came from the other end. “Underestimating the Nugels is a really, really stupid thing to do. One week, Ardulans. I suggest you start moving the Neek people to the cities. In one week, if we don’t have the Eld and the flare in-system, then we are coming down to the planet. Well, the smaller pods are, anyway. They’ll come down in the middle of the night when all the little Neek children are tucked snugly in bed, and they will set your forests on fire.”

“You will destroy the Systems if you destroy the andal of Neek!” Miketh exclaimed. “Their entire cellulose infrastructure is rooted in this planet. What happened to not harming the defenseless?”

Chittering rose up from the feed before the male voice drowned it out. “The whole of the Charted Systems is behind this decision. They understand the threat Ardulum poses. Physically, the Risalians are here, along with Minorans, the Oori, and more than a dozen other species from the Systems and the Alliance. A week is plenty of time to move the forest-dwelling Neek out of harm’s way. The Nugels are going to have their vengeance, Ardulans, and we will find the altered Ardulan woman. You just have to decide how much of your planet you want burned.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

J.S. Fields is a scientist who has perhaps spent too much time around organic solvents. She enjoys roller derby, woodturning, making chain mail by hand, and cultivating fungi in the backs of minivans. Nonbinary, but prefers female pronouns. Always up for a Twitter chat.

Website | Twitter

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New Release Blitz and Giveaway: Riding the Track by Kara Ripley @KaraRipleyBooks @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

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Title:  Riding the Track

Author: Kara Ripley

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 28, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 28600

Genre: Contemporary, Australia, bisexual, lesbian, outback, trail ride, vacation

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Herding cattle and drinking Australian beer aren’t pastimes that particularly appeal to an ‘indoor girl’ like Clara, but she’d be damned if she’d let her cheating ex-boyfriend have the vacation they were meant to share. So, to salvage some piece of her self-respect after a bad break-up, she finds herself riding a horse along the Oodnadatta Track for five days.

When Clara arrives, she can’t help but feel an intense attraction to Evelyn, the drover who guides their group through the immensely unique landscape between Coober Pedy and the Anna Creek Station. Clara’s never been one for a no-strings-attached fling, but cowgirl Evie becomes increasingly difficult to resist.

In combination with the exquisite outback, soulful horses, and overly cheerful tourists, Evie may just be exactly what Clara needs to escape her own pessimism.

Excerpt

Riding the Track
Kara Ripley © 2018
All Rights Reserved

A week traipsing around the ass-end of Australia was not my idea of a good time. As I exited the airplane, all I could think was: what the fuck am I doing here? Rather than at home in Sacramento, curled up with my sociopathic cat on my favorite sofa, drinking away my sorrows with my favorite wine, and obsessively rewatching my favorite episodes of Gilmore Girls. Instead, I was on my own—yes, traveling alone is a thing people do—waiting to be picked up by a tour guide who would probably smile too broadly, laugh too loudly, and abbreviate every other word to the point where I wouldn’t be able to understand a damn thing.

Regardless, it was still worth taking the trip, because it meant Austin (otherwise known as my idiot ex-boyfriend) had to stay home. Standing in line, another international zombie waiting to get my passport stamped, the thought made me smile.

“What brings you to the land down under?” The customs officer’s words might’ve suggested he was interested, but his monotone made it obvious he’d already asked at least fifty other people the same thing. But he was making an effort. I hadn’t realized how utterly terrifying the officials were in the airports back home. Contrast was sobering.

“Here for one of those outdoor adventure vacations,” I told him. I left out the part about taking the trip as a way to say “screw you” to my moronic, cheating ex-boyfriend, the one who’d actually wanted to go to South Australia. “It’s a cattle drive.” My voice was scratchy, my throat dry. I hadn’t actually spoken to anybody for hours. I didn’t have reason for complaint, though, since I managed to get an empty seat next to me and the flight attendant didn’t push too hard for conversation.

“Wonderful. Well—” He returned my passport. “—have a fantastic time, Clara Adler.” It always sounded strange to me when a stranger used my full name. I tucked the passport into my back pocket and nodded politely before moving on.

A few hours and two way-too-strong cappuccinos later, I was on yet another flight. This time, though, a small crowd of us were crammed into the world’s smallest cabin. The guy in the window seat next to me had serious need of some mouthwash or a mint. I had to keep my face turned away from him to avoid breathing in his noxious cigarette breath. It was a shame because, from what I saw through the window across the aisle, the landscape became increasingly orange as we put more distance between us and the capital city. It wasn’t quite the same color as the Nevada desert I’d visited with my parents. Nor did it seem as stagnant. Even with brief glances, the scorched land below us asserted itself as a living entity—a bear reaching the end of its hibernation period. Still and seemingly peaceful, yet hungry.

From the sky, the low-lying rectangular building in Coober Pedy reminded me of a roller-skating rink more than an airport, as though I could reach through the window and pick the whole thing up. When they finally opened the hatch and let us out, I wanted to guzzle the fresh air like a dehydrated alcoholic with their lips wrapped around a beer tap. I hadn’t been all that excited about the whole idea of being outdoors, but after such a suffocating trip, I wondered if there was something to be gained from this whole affair after all.

The tour guide waited on the tarmac, holding a sign that read “Clara, Louise, and Michael. Let’s round ’em up!” I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes. To be fair, she was probably trying to be welcoming. Ordinarily, I might have even appreciated the effort. Reflecting on how hostile I’d been lately made me remember the-idiot-named-Austin again. It irritated me that my loser ex-boyfriend had made me so moody.

The woman holding the sign noticed me staring and waved, lifting up onto her toes, even though there wasn’t anyone between us. Her dark eyes widened beneath a charcoal-colored hat as she smiled at me, gesturing for me to join her. The hat fascinated me. It looked like something a cowboy would wear, except the crown didn’t reach so high, and the brim had a less severe curl than I would have expected. I suddenly remembered mention of them in a magazine I’d skimmed on the flight over. An Akubra.

I took a deep breath to prepare for extended social interaction and walked over. Two others fell into step with me. Louise and Michael?

“Welcome to Oz!” The shine of the sign-holder’s white teeth was intensified by the dark tones of her face. “I’m guessing you two are Louise and Michael,” she said, offering a handshake.

“You guess right! You maybe ought to be a fortune-teller,” Louise replied enthusiastically, her Southern accent asserting itself. It was clear that Louise was going to get under my skin for the next few days. She was too cheerful. It just wasn’t natural to be that excited to meet new people.

“G’day. Good to meet ya,” the Australian replied. “My name’s Evelyn. But you can call me Evie, yeah?” I’d always assumed films and television programs exaggerated the Aussie accent and vernacular. If the woman was any indication, the stereotypes were more than fair. My guess, though, was that she probably had to speak that way to appease the tourists. “That leaves Clara,” she said as she held out her hand. Her grip was strong as she gave my arm one quick up-and-down before releasing it. I wanted to rub the back of my hand like a child but decided it probably wasn’t a good idea to offend the one who’d be guiding us. I needed another coffee. Or maybe a cider. Was the early afternoon a reasonable time to start drinking in Australia?

“Right.” Evie clapped her hands together. “You lot are the last ones to arrive. A few hours and we’ll be at base camp. You can get some good bush tucker, have a few drinks, enjoy a few songs, meet your horses, and get a solid night’s sleep before the real adventure starts.”

Horses. Fuck. I was so busy avoiding Mr. Stink-Mouth on the plane that I’d forgotten the horses, even though it was one of the main reasons Austin had wanted to come on this vacation. The fifteen hours of travel before that probably hadn’t helped my memory either.

Five days wandering through the South Australian outback. Sure, I could handle that. Probably. But on a horse? Jesus H Christ. I hadn’t been atop a horse since the seventh grade. Summer camp. A ripped seam in my jeans. Jonas Egan laughing at me from his saddle. God, Jonas was such an asshole. I imagined him as an adult, living in some overcrowded apartment building with his eight illegitimate children and underage girlfriend, still scratching his balls when he thought no one was watching.

I was going to have to actually ride a horse. For five days. Shit. My crotch and thighs were practically aching already. Fuck you and your cowboy obsession, Austin. If I kept my bad track record up, I was going to need an asshole display cabinet for my growing collection.

As the four of us walked through the small building toward the baggage claim, I couldn’t help but notice the jeans Evelyn—Evie the Drover—was wearing. Dark blue. Bootleg. Tight. Did my eyes just linger on her butt? I had to admit, it was a damned impressive butt. I wanted to ask her if she had a regular routine of squats or if the muscle tone came from all the riding. Either way, I didn’t think too much of my little rear-end inspection at the time. It’s not as though it was the first time I’d checked out a woman, and there wasn’t anything else to see at the Coober Pedy airport.

The car was a well-traveled pickup truck, the kind with two rows of seats. It was probably white, but under all the orange dust, it was difficult to be sure.

“I’ll take that for ya,” Evie said as she made for my duffel bag. Her fingers grazed against mine as she wrapped her hand around the handle and gently pulled it out of my grip. Though we both had dark hair and eyes, my skin was pale against hers, almost sickly.

“Thanks.” I redirected my gaze to a rather exciting rock a few inches away from the rear tire. It was the safer option, given my brain seemed to want me to inspect the front of Evie the drover in much the same way I had the back.

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Meet the Author

Kara Ripley is the romance-writing alter ego of Australian sci-fi and fantasy author, Rebecca Langham. Even though she’s named after two iconic sci-fi characters, Kara reflects Rebecca’s inner romantic, that part of her secretly wanting to leave the aliens, magic, and spaceships behind every now and then.

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