Valentine’s Stories!

I usually loath tales based around holidays, but I’m trying to be a kinder, fluffier, all together more celebratory person for 2021, so I have put aside my cynicism and generalised rage and put together a few stories that feature Valentine’s Day for you! Thank you so much to the authors who joined in!

K. L.  Noone: Frost and Raine ($3.99)
Cover, Frost and Raine by K. L. Noone

A Frost spirit who runs a coffee shop. A Cupid who works as a divorce lawyer. And magic in the air …

Raine’s never been a conventional Cupid. He likes his job as a lawyer, and he’s not planning to fall in love — and he wouldn’t trust it if someone fell in love with him. But the owner of his favorite coffee shop might challenge Raine’s resolutions about love.

Even though Don’s a Frost spirit, he finds comfort in giving people warmth, good coffee, and overall cheer. But one gorgeous sarcastic Cupid seems immune to Don’s cheerfulness — and he keeps coming back, day after day. Fortunately, Don’s always liked a challenge…

Holly Day: Be Still My Heart ($3.99)

Four years ago, Dimitri Petrov had his leg blown off by a landmine while in military service. Suffering from PTSD, he doesn’t do crowds, people, dates, or dinners. But when Elian Hubert enters the dating agency where Dimitri works in a whirlwind of pink shirts, flapping hands, and outrageous flirting, looking for a Valentine date, Dimitri thinks maybe he can do him a favor.

The Morning After by Jae (Free!)
Cover, The Morning After by Jae

After a friend sets her up on a blind date from hell, Amanda has enough of dating. A spur-of-the-moment decision to attend an Anti-Valentine’s Day party leads to an unexpected encounter. She wakes up to a hangover and a surprising complication… “The Morning After” started out as a Valentine’s Day short story. I later expanded it to a full novel titled “Departure from the Script” and made this short story available for free.

Valentine’s Love by Helena Stone (99c until 16th Feb!)
Cover, Valentine's Love by Helena Stone

Ty isn’t looking for love, but what if it finds him anyway? Ever since his partner left him on St. Valentine’s Day, Ty O’Malley has done his best to avoid the love-themed holiday. When Ben Cronin enters Ty’s giftshop looking for presents to surprise a man he’s been admiring from afar, Ty can’t deny the attraction. But Ty has given up on love and Ben has obviously set his sights on somebody else. After February 14th, Ty will probably never see Ben again… Or will he?

Playing Chicken by A. L. Lester ($1.99)
Cover, Playing Chicken by A. L. Lester

Marc returns home from London to his isolated Welsh cottage for good, having found his ex boyfriend shagging someone else in their bed. Who’s the thin, freezing cold man with the bruised face he finds in his barn? Will the tenuous connection between them grow, or fade away?

A short story to mark the Welsh St Valentine’s Day, St Dwynwen’s day. With chickens.

There you go! Happy Valentine’s Day to you all, and may you all find the relationship of your dreams, within social-distancing parameters!

interview: Allison Temple

Please welcome Alli Temple today. She is celebrating the release of her new FF romantic fantasy, Uncharted!

First question then! What started you writing?

Boredom? Lol. I’ve always been a writer. I have old journals full of terrible attempts at writing a “novel” from my middle school and high school years. But I started writing seriously as an adult when my husband changed jobs and was working a lot of nights and weekends. I needed something to do and since I’m an introvert I wanted a hobby that didn’t involve talking to people. Writing’s great because I only talk to the people in my head.

Where do you write?

Do you want the pre-Covid answer or the current one? Either way, I mostly write at home. In the summer, I like to spread out on the back porch. We have a big tree that gives just the right amount of shade. In the cooler months, I mostly write in the living room on the couch.

When it’s safe to go out, I love writing in Starbucks. I don’t actually care for their coffee, but the people watching is top notch. Throw on a pair of noise cancelling headphones and let the words flow!

What do you like to read?

I’m an audiobook fan and like 95% of my reading is audio. Good narrators are key for me. Recent favourite audiobooks include Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall, Manners and Mannerisms by Tanya Chris, and The Last Sun by KD Edwards.

What are the three books you’d take to a desert island? Why would you choose them?

That’s so hard! I’d take The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater because it’s the kind of book I’d love to write, Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier because it’s my all-time comfort read, and Honeymoon Sweet by me because it’s my sweetest happiest book to date and if I’m stuck on a desert island, I need a sweet happy escape I know I can count on.

Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?

Nothing formal, but I’m in a bunch of different Slack and Discord groups. There’s always someone to help you work through a plot hole, listen to you vent when your book doesn’t sell as well as you want, or sprint when you need to get words down fast. When we could go out and about, I also loved to go on writing dates with writer friends. We’d either meet up at someone’s house or at a coffee shop or bar and chat and write. It’s so important to have writer friends. No one who doesn’t have a writer brain really gets it.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I’ve adopted two rescue pets in the last year. Manny is a mutt from Mexico. He’s a goofy neurotic love bug who just wants a soft place to nap. Maud is a farm cat who is learning how to be a house cat. She rules the roost and eats anything she can get her paws on.

In the before-times, my husband and I loved to travel. We took an amazing trip to Mexico City for his 40th birthday and I can’t wait to go back and explore more!

Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?

Uncharted is my first fantasy novel. It started out as a silly tweet about changing one word in the title of your favourite movie to “lesbian” and I tweeted “The Princess Lesbian”. And then a bunch of people said they wanted to read that and it kind of took on a life of its own.

Uncharted took forever to write. I started in the summer of 2018 and now it’s 2021. Part of it was learning the conventions of a new genre, part of it was making sure George and Lou’s story was as strong as it felt in my head. While it was really time consuming, I loved writing about adventure and exploring how to redeem someone who has done very bad things, as well as about the love story at its center.


Amazon US : Amazon Int’l

In a world of arrogant nobles and their punishing laws, Georgina will be hung if anyone discovers she is a spy. But when the wicked prince proposes marriage, Georgina must accept. Refusing would expose the secrets she has delivered to a hidden resistance and forfeit her life. With her wedding day looming ever closer, salvation comes from an unlikely source. 

Pirate Captain Cinder is a terror on the open sea, striking fear into hearts wherever she sails. Now she has a new target. The vulnerable Princess Georgina should be an easy mark in Cinder’s kidnapping plot. However the legend of Captain Cinder is more intertwined with Georgina’s own history than either of them expect.

Treacherous storms. A mysterious pirate king. The prince’s unrelenting pursuit. Georgina and Cinder can only escape by following the uncharted course of their hearts. Just as a future together is within their grasp, Cinder’s past threatens to drag them both to the deep.

Nine Ladies Dancing

Bleak Midwinter Quiltbag Funfest!

I should have done this yesterday for the Nine Ladies Dancing day of The Bleak Midwinter Quiltbag Funfest over at Quiltbag Historicals, but as usual I’m a day late, if not a dollar short. Jones, who is not really a lady, trying to wriggle out of dancing at Lady’s Nailsbourne’s ball, near the beginning of The Flowers of Time.

Do bob on over to the facebook group if you have a moment and like queer historical fiction. Different writers are posting snippets of their work for all the twelve days, and there’s an eighteen-book giveaway draw ending on the 6th of January.

Lady Nailsbourne’s Ball

The ballroom was sweltering. Jones went to push her hair off her face and then remembered and stopped. Her feet hurt in the ridiculous tiny shoes and the corset was pinching her. Her long gloves were making her elbows itch.

The Flowers of Time

Although that might have been the conversation.

She gritted her teeth and nodded once again to the young man who was attempting to engage her interest with a tale of his morning’s fox hunt. “How fascinating!” she attempted to simper. Her simpering skills clearly needed work, because he flinched.

Luckily at that point, the music stopped. They bowed to each other with ill-disguised relief and then Jones remembered she was supposed to curtsy. Too late now. He held out an arm and she took it delicately in order to be escorted back to her chaperon.

She disguised a snort.

Fat lot of good Aunt Caroline would do to protect Jones’ virtue.

Despite herself though, she smiled at the older woman as she rejoined her small group of older ladies. Her escort, Mr Danvers, handed her off with a mutter about going to get her some punch.

She hated punch.

Aunt Caroline gave her a nervous smile. “Frances, my dear! You looked so graceful. Your partner was clearly extremely taken with you!”

Jones raised an eyebrow at her. Her aunt patted her arm in subtle admonishment and hissed. “Stop that! Nice young ladies do not raise their eyebrows! Especially one eyebrow at a time!” before replastering the smile on to her face.

This wasn’t working. She’d known it wouldn’t work and she’d told them it wouldn’t work. But she’d promised Pater that she’d try and she always kept her promises.

Danvers returned with the punch and presented it to her as if he had pulled a rabbit out of a hat and expected applause. She thanked him politely and he retreated, clearly as relieved as she that his obligation to her had been discharged.

“Aunt, I need some fresh air, I think. May I go out to the gardens? Or to the terrace?” The ballroom had been hot with the heat of hundreds of wax candles in the chandeliers when their party had arrived and as the space had filled and the dancing started, the temperature and the odour had risen and risen.

“My dear girl, of course you may. Do you wish for company?” Her ringlets trembled a little as she raised her lorgnettes and peered through them inquisitively. Aunt Caroline was positively cheering for Jones to be importuned into a compromising position by a likely young gentleman and so to have her married off before the season ended.

It was the point of the whole exercise.

“I’ll be fine, Aunt. Only for a few minutes.”

“I believe the terrace is that way.” Aunt Caroline pointed with her glasses and Jones began to make her way through the crush to the large open doors, attempting not to slop her punch onto her gloves. People were sorting out partners for the next dance and she avoided making eye contact with anyone as she moved forward through the jostling crowd. The musicians kept the music going…a piece by Bach, she thought. The music was actually outstanding, a small positive in what was an exceedingly trying evening.

It was a blessed relief to step into the cooler air of the terrace. There were liveried footmen standing on either side of each of the tall French windows that let on to the terrace. They didn’t return her small smile. She wasn’t comfortable here. Ignoring the servants might be the done thing in polite society, but it went against all her instincts.

She smoothed the fine silk of her dress down her middle in a nervous gesture she couldn’t quite suppress and stepped past them out in to the cool of the night. It wasn’t actually all that dark…there were lanterns at strategic intervals along the retaining wall that threw pools of soft light that didn’t quite meet between the sconces. Lady Nailsbourne had had her gardeners place potted trees and bushes all along the expanse. It was lovely. A perfect place for a romantic liaison, should she be seeking one.

Which she was not.

Buy The Flowers of Time

The Flowers of Time. A non-binary explorer. A determined lady botanist. Mystery, monsters and romance in the 1780s Himalayas.

Interview: Kellie Doherty

Today we well welcome Kellie Doherty, Alaska-based author of Curling Vines & Crimson Trades. Welcome to the blog, Kellie! What made you decide to rock up today?

Kellie Doherty, with wonderful orange and red hair!

Thank you for having me for this interview! Today, I’m celebrating my new release, adult fantasy Curling Vines & Crimson Trades. The novel centers on a rare goods trader named Orenda. Her wife gets kidnapped and Orenda has to do these nearly impossible tasks and trades just to get her wife back. Then the unthinkable happens, her best friend Jax tries to kill her. She has a task list too and her final one is to kill Orenda. In a race against the coming dawns and battling at every turn, Orenda has to try to save them all before the sun rises on her wife’s final day. Curling Vines came out on November 30, 2020, from Desert Palm Press, and I’ve been shouting about the new release pretty hard since then. However, I really love interviews, so I’m also here for fun!

What started you writing?

Fanfiction! I loved watching Digimon and Pokemon when I was younger and I wanted to be in their worlds longer, to have more adventures with the characters I loved so much. I turned to writing fanfiction to fulfil that need, and it really sparked my writing career. Fanfiction holds such a dear place in my heart that I still write it to this day! It’s fluffy and fun. Something I can dip into when I need a break from my original stories for a little while. After I felt comfortable in the already created worlds of others and crafting original characters to play in those worlds, I branched into original fiction and created worlds all my own. That was a thrilling transition. Do you know how equally time-consuming and awesome worldbuilding can be? It’s intense! I also started writing stories because I didn’t see many queer female characters in science fiction and fantasy so I wanted to add my own positive representation of my LGBTQIA community into the genres I adored. That’s why all of my main characters are queer ladies!

What’s your writing space like?

I write at home curled up on the couch with a cup of tea and my cats purring beside me. Sometimes they push my computer out of the way so they can sit on my lap and snooze while I awkwardly hold my computer against my knees to write. I let them, of course, because I’m a pushover when my cats are involved. Technically I can write almost anywhere—airports, coffee shops, libraries—but I’m most comfortable at home. I also scribble notes on characters, plotpoints, and worldbuilding during breaks at work and in the middle of the night. (Though in the middle of the night my handwriting is nearly unintelligible.)

What do you like to read in your non-writing time?

Science fiction and fantasy! I am a huge geek for dragons and magic, spaceships and tech. The escape it gives me is honestly priceless. I like high adventure stories with big (and small) stakes, but I also enjoy character-driven stories as well. It just depends on my mood at the time. 

What are the three books you’d take to a desert island? Why would you choose them?

Mm, my first pick would be Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon since it’s such an epic story with so many varied characters and points of view. It’s also a thick book, which means it would take me a while to read if I got stranded there. Second I’d bring Becky Chambers’ novella To Be Taught, if Fortunate because her prose is beautiful and her characters try to see the good in each situation they’re put in, even when—and especially when—it gets tough. I feel like that kind of story would be super helpful in a desert situation. And finally, I’d probably bring a tropical island food book of some sort so I’d know what’s edible! Knowing me I’d probably snack on a poisonous plant…

Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?

I belong to a local writing organization called the Alaska Writers Guild, and I really appreciate the smaller events they host throughout the year as well as the larger annual writing conference. As you know COVID-19 made the in-person events grind to a halt, but the Alaska Writers Guild swung to virtual pretty smoothly. I also have a weekly writing group that meets over Skype! It’s lovely to have a two-hour chunk of time where we can critique our work together, and I honestly believe we’ve all become better writers because of it.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Oh boy, I lead a rather busy life outside of my writing career. I have my own freelance editing business—Edit. Revise. Perfect.—that keeps my editing eye sharp! I have a lot of different clients and some ongoing contract work too, with both fiction and nonfiction work. I feel really fortunate to have one foot in the business side of publishing like that, even while I have a full time job in a different field. I have two fabulous black cats—Raven and Cinder—who like to dash around at midnight, pounce on hair ties, and curl up on me while I’m writing. As for exercising, I do get at least 7,000 steps per day and I do Zumba every now and then, but I miss swimming. I used to do water aerobics, pre-COVID, and it was just so much fun! Hopefully once the virus settle down a bit, I’ll be able to get back into the water again. Hmmm, what else. Well, I probably watch too much YouTube—Critical Role is an obsession of mine—and I play video games like Minecraft and Zelda. I’ve also been playing the same Dungeons & Dragons campaign with a group of friends for nearly four years, which is pretty fabulous.

Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?

Like I said earlier, I’m celebrating the release of my new adult fantasy novel, Curling Vines & Crimson Trades! I got the idea for this five-book fantasy series when I was a teenager, but I didn’t feel comfortable writing it until a few years ago. The idea—having four main characters each with their own standalone books with their own stories and challenges, triumphs and failures, only to bring them all together in the final fifth book—seemed too big for me. And it was back then. It might still be too much for me now, honestly, but I wanted to challenge myself and I knew that if I didn’t start it soon, it would haunt me for the rest of my writing career. And I also wanted to pivot into writing fantasy since I’m such a huge nerd for it. Anyway, for Curling Vines, the story is focused on Orenda Silverstone and for her story, I really wanted to do a deep dive into what a person would do to save their loved one and discover how someone who believes they’re broken moves past that feeling. Curling Vines took me about six months to write but then I submitted it to my writing group to critique so the second draft took a little bit longer to hash out. For the enjoyment factor, I loved writing the interactions between the characters, especially Orenda and Lyra. They clash so often! It was fun for me. For the hate factor…hmmm, that one’s a bit harder to pin down. I don’t really hate anything about writing. One thing I can get lost in is the research aspect. For example, for this story, one of the characters Jax fights with a staff and since I had never written about staff fighting before I had to research. And I say, “had to” loosely there; I actually liked researching staff fights! The problem? I remember one night I literally spent my whole writing time—like three hours—researching…I didn’t write a single word. Research is important, don’t get me wrong, but I need a timer or something so I don’t deep dive like that again and forget to actually write the story!

Curling Vine & Crimson Trades

Book cover: Curing Vines and Crimson Trades by Kellie Doherty

Rare goods trader, Orenda Silverstone leads a happy life with her wife and friends. She’s an Elu—a race whose crafting is centered on protection—but her power is broken. Now, her sword is her strength. When her wife gets kidnapped and Orenda has to use her trading skills to complete some nearly impossible tasks to get her back, a good sword arm won’t be enough. Orenda’s time is rapidly coming to a close. She needs help. But she’s been forced into silence. Two sun goddess worshippers, twins Lan and Lyra, decide to join Orenda’s quest in order to guard one of the rarer items to its destination. Orenda’s not sure she can turn her back on either one, but with no other options, she competes against the sunrises to complete her tasks before her wife is killed.  Then, the unthinkable happens. Orenda’s best friend, Jax, tries to kill her. Between racing against the coming dawns and battles at every turn, Orenda’s list now seems insurmountable. No longer certain of who is friend or foe, she must come up with a plan to save them all before the sun rises on her wife’s final day.

Meet Kellie!

Kellie Doherty is a queer science fiction and fantasy author who lives in Eagle River, Alaska. When she noticed that there wasn’t much positive queer representation in the science fiction and fantasy realms, she decided to create her own! Kellie’s work has been published in Image OutWrite 2019, Astral Waters Review, Life (as it) Happens, and Impact, among others. She’s currently working on a five-book adult fantasy series. The first book Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties (Desert Palm Press, March 2019) won a 2019 Rainbow Award. The second book Curling Vines & Crimson Trades launched on November 30, 2020, and an excerpt from Curling Vines won first place in an Alaska Writers Guild Fiction contest in 2020. 

Website : Email : Goodreads: Twitter : Facebook : Instagram

Interview: Liz Faraim talks about Canopy

Today, please welcome new author Liz Faraim to the blog to answer my incredibly intrusive questions and talk about her debut release, Canopy! Canopy is a contemporary LGTBQ thriller, featuring Vivian Chastain, a veteran transitioning back in to civilian life. It’s not a romance, but falls squarely in the LGBTQ category, with f/f pairings and gay, trans and poly characters.

There’s an excerpt and a chance to enter her rafflecopter draw if you scroll on down, too.

Happy Monday, Liz! Why are you doing this interview?

I am doing this interview because my debut novel, Canopy, is due to release on October 26. I’ve also just launched my website. My lack of web design skills will become apparent if you choose to visit the site.

Tell us a bit about why you started writing?

Not sure I can really pin it down. Writing has always been something I have done. I recall tapping away on my father’s old manual typewriter as a child, which resulted in my first short story. My mother had a friend that was an author, and I mailed him my little manuscript to see if he’d give me some feedback.

Where do you write?

We live in a small townhouse, with doesn’t have much space for everyday living, let alone an office. So, my writing desk is in the only place it fits, which is the living room. While it is not the cozy little writing nook I dream of, it gets the job done.

What do you like to read? And what are the three books you’d take to a desert island?

I like to read contemporary fiction, historical fiction, mystery, and the occasional fantasy novel.

If going to a desert island I would bring: 1) Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, 2) David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, and 3) Katie Quinn’s The Huntress.

I would bring these books because each one of them does a fantastic job of transporting me to another place. They really suck me in and provide a level of connection with the characters that I would likely need if all alone on an island.

Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?

I am a member of both the Queer Sacramento Authors Collective, and the Bay Area Queer Writers Association. Previously these groups held meetings in person, but have adapted to virtual meetings given the current public health issues here. Both groups have been incredibly helpful in advancing my writing, and I have formed some wonderful friendships.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

When not writing I am parenting my very busy nine-year-old son, working my day job, and exploring. I live in a beautiful town on the bay, and I like to get out and enjoy the incredible views and fresh air. I also enjoy geocaching, watching tv, hosting game night (when not in a pandemic), and playing with my cats.

Tell me a little bit about Canopy. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?

My upcoming release was a long time in the making. Canopy was my first attempt at a full-length novel, so I didn’t really know what I was doing. It has seen many iterations, but I am happy with the final product. All in all, Canopy took about three years to write. The main character, Vivian, was inside of me, ready to be wrestled down onto paper.

I am a “panster,” so I don’t plot my stories out in advance. I just sit down and write, so I never know what is going to happen in the story until I am typing it.

I enjoyed the feeling of how easily the story flowed out of me. That’s not to say I don’t get writer’s block, because I most certainly do, but Canopy had been bottled up in me for years and was ready to come out. What I hated was that I had a very unexpected and traumatic break up right after I finished the first draft. I had sent the manuscript out to my beta readers, but I became so depressed from the break up that I wasn’t emotionally strong enough to read their feedback or make any corrections for almost six months.

Thank you so much for sharing with us today, Liz! Read on to learn more about Canopy. Liz is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour to celebrate her launch.


Vivian Chastain is an adrenaline addicted veteran transitioning to civilian life in Sacramento, California. She settles into a new routine while she finishes up college and works as a bartender, covering up her intense anxiety with fake bravado and swagger. All Vivian wants is peace and quiet, but her whole trajectory changes when she stumbles upon a heinous crime in progress, and has to fight for her life to get away.

While recovering from the fight, she falls in love with someone who is tall in stature but short on emotional intelligence, and this toxic union provides Vivian the relationship that she thinks she needs. Given Vivian’s insecurities and traumatic past, she clings to the relationship even while it destroys her.

Prone to fits of rage, the spiraling of Vivian’s temper creates a turning point for her as she looks within to find the peace she seeks.

Vivian’s alcoholic brother and emotionally devoid mother serve as frequent thorns in her side, prompting her turbulent history to often bubble up to the surface. The bubbling turns to a rolling boil when Vivian’s brother lands himself in jail for drunken indiscretions, and not long afterward her partner is arrested for something so atrocious Vivian cannot even fathom it. She is left pondering whether or not to believe that the person she loves could have committed such an inexcusable crime.

Vivian’s relationships are strained to their breaking points as she continues to seek balance. She turns to her best friend for support, only to be left empty handed and alone until she finds comradery and care from the last person she would have thought.

Warnings: This book contains sexually explicit material which is only suitable for mature readers, graphic violence, self-harm, abuse of a child by a parent, abuse by a sibling, alcohol abuse, and PTSD.

Buy Canopy

About Liz

Liz Faraim is a recovering workaholic who has mastered multi-tasking, including balancing a day job, solo parenting, writing, and finding some semblance of a social life. In past lives she has been a soldier, a bartender, a shoe salesperson, an assistant museum curator, and even a driving instructor.

Liz writes contemporary fiction that highlights queer characters and often includes complex polyamorous relationships. Her writing has a hefty dose of soul searching and emotional turmoil while also taking the reader on fun adventures. She loves spending time in nature and does her best to share nature with her readers.

Website : Facebook : Twitter : Goodreads

Read an excerpt from Canopy

As I approached Road 27, I saw what looked like an old warehouse. It was all closed up, the metal siding rusty, the dirt lot empty and overgrown with Russian Thistle. It was perfect for a bio break.

I backed off the throttle and downshifted. The bike rapidly slowed under me. I pulled into the dirt lot and parked along the side of the structure. I killed the engine and hopped off quickly, yanking off my helmet and gloves.

My bladder was screaming for relief. I grabbed a tissue from my tank bag and jogged around to the east side of the building so I wouldn’t be seen from the road. Dropping trou, I squatted against the side of the building. The heat of the warm metal siding radiated through the back of my shirt. Once I was finished, I stood, buckling my belt as the relief washed over my body.

The building was surrounded by row crops, and a breeze blew across the fields. The distant Sierra Mountains wavered in the hot air.

It occurred to me an abandoned warehouse like that would be a great spot for geocaching and I walked slowly along the side of the building, looking for potential geocache hiding spots.

I rounded the far corner of the building and stopped in my tracks. I was startled to see a car parked about twenty feet away. It was a rusted-out old Honda Accord, its windows rolled down. The burgundy paint was oxidized, and strips of the headliner hung down, fluttering in the hot midday breeze.

Some faint shuffling sounds came from inside the warehouse, and I realized I was standing directly in front of a rusty pedestrian door. I took a few steps back. My hands tingled and I balled them into fists.

It’s just a farm worker getting some tools, dumbass.

But the hypervigilance that had kicked in would not go away. Something was off, and it made me bristle.

I reached down for my M16 sling and came up empty. I looked down at my boots on the dusty cracked ground. They were my scuffed-up riding boots, not military issue jump boots. My pants were denim, not BDU’s.

I slipped away to another hot, dusty day five years prior. A day when RPG’s and bullets filled the air rather than the sound of the breeze rustling crops. A day when blood was shed.

I took another step away from the building and forced myself to breathe. Breathe in the smell of freshly plowed soil, leather, gasoline, and the faint hint of a dung heap.

I slapped myself across the thighs, hard. Even through denim, the sound and sting of it helped bring me back. My thighs and palms burned. I did it again to make the point to myself.

The door to the warehouse opened, and a woman stepped out. She was wearing a tan backpack, whistling, and twirling a key ring on her fingertip as she walked toward a spigot near the door. Her long hair was brown and tightly permed. She was short but solid and moved like an athlete. Scanning her, I noticed that her hands and shirt were bloody. I coiled up inside, ready to fight.

The door closed heavily behind her, and she took a few more steps before looking up and spotting me. She stopped whistling as our eyes met.

I immediately shifted into a fighting stance. With no hesitation the woman charged at me. I got low and opened my arms because I didn’t have time to try a side slip. As soon as the woman plowed into me, I wrapped my arms tightly around her.

We went down hard. I wrapped my legs around her waist. Dust and grit were immediately in the air.

I had a hard time keeping a grip on her torso because of the backpack. I worked my arms up until the crook of my elbow was wrapped around the back of her neck, holding her as close as I could. She bucked and tried to roll out of my grip. I locked my right foot into the crook of my left knee and squeezed the woman’s guts. She grunted as I clamped my thighs down around her, restricting her ability to get a full breath. She was solid and strong, deep down in her core.

Adrenaline and rage surged through my body, and a clear lucidity took over. I was in my element, and apparently so was the woman I was hanging onto.

Warnings: This book contains sexually explicit material which is only suitable for mature readers, graphic violence, self-harm, abuse of a child by a parent, abuse by a sibling, alcohol abuse, and PTSD.

Buy Canopy