Two women seeking refuge from trauma on an alien world meet in a storm under the unlikeliest circumstances. At the edge of the galaxy, under the apple boughs, can they reach out and take hold of their happily-ever-after?
Thisbe Vandergoss is a London socialite on the run from her controlling family. With all her assets frozen and her friends on Earth just as likely to sell her out than help her out, Thisbe signs up to be a mail-order bride on the lush moon world, Sirona.
Shiloh Kerridan left Earth five years ago, seeking to put a galaxy between herself and the people who hurt her. Shiloh has thrown herself into the creation and maintenance of Starfall Ranch, a cozy piece of farmland that boasts juicy apples and the best goats cheese on Sirona. She’s vowed never to let anyone in again, and she certainly has no patience for rich off-worlders who show up on her doorstep unexpectedly.
Especially when Thisbe shows up in the middle of a streak of bad luck: her fruit trees have succumbed to disastrous blight, her farm bots keep mysteriously malfunctioning, and a local mining company is breathing down her neck to parcel out her land. If Shiloh’s bad luck keeps up, she’ll have no choice but to sell her beloved farm and sanctuary. Thisbe is determined she won’t let that happen, but will Shiloh open her heart enough to trust again?
Shy got up and found the book in question and handed it over to Thisbe just as a strong burst of wind howled overhead. The force of it shook the windows and sent leaves and small branches twigs clattering against the side of the farmhouse. Thisbe jumped a little at the sudden violence of the noise and Shy instinctively reached out a hand to steady her.
“This place was built to withstand winds ten times stronger,” she assured her. “We’re safe.”
Safe as houses,” Thisbe said. She quirked one eyebrow up. “I never understood that phrase, you know? Houses aren’t that safe. Even the well-protected ones can be burgled or broken into. The old ones caught fire all the time, or fell apart in earthquakes. And that’s not even mentioning any hypothetical co-habitants. A bad domestic situation can make the strongest house the least safe place in the galaxy.”
“I know all about bad home situations, but that’s a story for a not-so-stormy night. Safe as houses… yeah. Who came up with that saying, anyway? Had they ever actually lived in a house?” Shy laughed and tried to play off the conversation as an idle joke, but she wondered all the same. Whose house are you afraid of back on Earth, Thisbe?
“Hey, do you want something a little warmer than wine?” Shy asked. “Let’s go downstairs and take a snack break. I’ll make a pot of cocoa.”
Downstairs in the kitchen, Shy whisked at the milk in the saucepan and tried not to stare openly at Thisbe, who was wrapped up in one of Shy’s oversized shaggy blue eyelash sweaters and looked like the snuggliest angel in the galaxy.
Thisbe watched the storm through the kitchen window while Shy whisked. The fragrant steam of milk and sugar and cocoa powder mingled with the warm glow of the kitchen lights, and for a moment Shy could so perfectly picture walking up behind Thisbe and wrapping her arms around her, that she almost thought she had.
“What? What’s wrong?”
Thisbe, still leaning against the counter on the other side of the room, gave her an assessing look.
“I was asking you the same thing. You kind of spaced out there for a moment with that whisk. Everything alright?”
Shy turned off the burner and busied herself getting out two mugs for their cocoa. She poured a generous splash of cinnamon liquor into each before adding the cocoa.
“Everything’s fine, yeah,” she shrugged off the question. “I’m just exhausted, I guess.”
“You certainly had a long enough day, what with all those droid repairs.”
There was a sweet, sympathetic tone in Thisbe’s voice. When Shy turned to hand her a mug of cocoa, Thisbe had moved closer to her so unexpectedly that they nearly bumped into each other. Shy smiled awkwardly and offered her a mug and when Thisbe accepted it, her fingertips brushed Shy’s for just longer than was necessary to accept a cup from someone.
Shy could hear her blood pumping. She felt more alive, more aware, than she could ever remember feeling. Her whole body screamed at her to make a move, to take this gorgeous creature into her arms, to drink her up, to pin her against the kitchen counter and find every single spot on Thisbe’s body that made her melt.
“Storm’s letting up,” she said instead, pulling her hands back.
California Dawes is a lover of romance, fantasy, mystery, and the allure of the open road. Her romances are always set in queernorm worlds where complex characters explore the depths of their desires, pursue the truth of their hearts, and sometimes fight some demons along the way.
She lives in the San Francisco area with two highly opinionated cats and the sweetest dog in the universe. When she’s not writing swoon-worthy romances, California enjoys RPGs, running, road trips, and good coffee shops.