- Series: Rosewood Space Westerns
- Length: Novella (136 pages)
- Release date: October 9, 2014
- Publisher: Self Published
- Formats: Ebook
Note: This is a short web excerpt. Larger samples are available at retailers.
There was a saloon with no name on a forgotten space station, across from an industrial spaceport, at the back of a dirty promenade, through a real wood door. Anelace sauntered in at high noon.
She wasn't there for a drink. She was looking for a particular kind of criminal. Anelace was a freelance exterminator and her vice was money. She wanted to be back in the abandoned wilds, killing verminous blobs and earning more of it.
Around her, the No Name's decor was classic saloon. Dark wood and brass were bolted together in thick wooden chairs, backless stools, a long scuffed bar and two dozen tables. The lights were high and plentiful, little stained glass balls casting multi-colored glows. And the liquor behind the bartender was a serious display, giant bottles of whiskey and gin stacked together like choirboys before the service.
The lunch rush was just winding down. A few diners, a few more uncleared tables, and the obligatory daytime drunks littered the room. No one looked twice at the exhausted woman still carrying her weapons, still sweaty and battered from a morning of hard work.
Anelace needed a quick patch up, some fake skin on her scuffs, a little jellyfish ointment on her goo burns, and she needed it off the record. She was there to see her favorite off-the-record doctor—a woman with some self-taught medical knowledge and a good supply case.
Meidani, the doc she was looking for, stood beside a dirty table with a dish bin in her hands. She was a delicate woman with long black hair, a heart-shaped face, and wide features hinting at a second-wave ancestry. Her manner was reserved, her smile gentle, and her eyes perpetually dreamy.
She was talking to a young man made of elbows and aw-shucks. He was probably twenty-five, but he looked twelve to Anelace.
Anelace recognized the guy. She distinctly remembered Meidani turning her eyes to get a second look at him on the promenade.
Meidani didn't seem to date much lately, heading home every night to the quarters she shared with her family. But Anelace would bet hard credits the woman had an itchy libido hidden under about four layers of her propriety.
She couldn't volunteer to scratch that itch herself—Meidani was a certifiable good girl, former teacher's pet and law-abiding citizen. The one time Anelace had tried hitting on her, she'd given her a look like slime mold had started talking. They'd been in primary school at the time.
But friends didn't let friends spend their entire lives between home and work. Meidani deserved to have a good time, and if Anelace couldn't give her a good time herself… She was still going to give her a good time. And this looked like opportunity.
Anelace walked closer to the pair. The kid's jeans were starched, his hands strong, and his looks clean-cut but handsome. He was too male and too young, of course, but Anelace wasn't shopping for herself. This man was exactly the sort of sincere achiever Meidani always dated, back when she did date. And he was crazy about Meidani—you could tell by his earnest lean.
Meidani caught Anelace's eye, sending a meaning-laden look her way, but what did it mean? Expectation? Pleading?
"Howdy. How ya doing?" Anelace tipped her hat at them both, a mannish gesture she loved for the contrast with her feminine long hair and not half-bad rack.
"Howdy," the admirer nodded.
"Hi, Anelace." Meidani's greeting was warmer.
Anelace might have known the kid's name, but she couldn't remember it. So she bluffed her way through, clapping him on the shoulder in a neighborly way. "And how've you been? How's your family?"
Everyone on Rosewood had a family, right?
The kid's grin was genuine. "I'm doing good. My sister had a baby. She's doing good too. And the baby looks just like me."
"The poor baby," Anelace said mournfully, confusing him and making Meidani laugh. "No, I'm just kidding you. Have you been helping out? Being the good brother?"
"Of course I have. The baby cries more than anything , but he'll smile for me."
Meidani was smiling at him, too. A good sign.
"A charmer, then," Anelace said.
The kid nodded over-eager agreement, for a little too long, like he hadn't understood her. When he realized both of the women were looking at him, he coughed and faced Meidani again. "So, I was about to ask, why aren't you a waitress yet? You'd be great at it."
He made the last bit encouraging—and patronizing.
Really? Anelace had handed him the perfect opening to present his "fine upstanding citizen" credentials and he'd blown it, preferring to gnaw on his own boot instead. Meidani wasn't a waitress because waitresses had to stand around chatting with strangers, and she was too shy to enjoy that.
"I like bussing."
She also did the books, the ordering, the hiring, and chopped the occasional stack of vegetables. Bussing, yeah.
"Okay, right. But…" The kid took a few steps closer to Meidani.
Meidani set her bin on the table, a not-so-subtle hint that went right over the kid's head.
Men couldn't flirt worth a damn. Why were straight women even straight?
Maybe this guy was too useless. But Anelace owed Meidani a favor or five, and she liked the woman. If there was any chance Meidani wanted a sweaty roll between the sheets, Anelace would help out where she could.
A momentary image of Meidani sweaty, lost in pleasure, wrapped in sheets flickered through her mind, bringing Anelace's thoughts to a stuttering halt. Heat ghosted through her body like that warm and cold feeling you got when you walked away from a bonfire. Her breath caught in her throat, turning into a cough.
Then Anelace dismissed the fantasy ruthlessly. That was not how their friendship worked. Anelace knew better than to imagine sexual tension with the woman who gave her free cookies and had once lectured her on the importance of cleaning her teeth after drinking alcohol.
The kid had his hat in his hands, deforming it. It was a nice hat, too—soft tan felt with a pinch in the front and a lightly flared brim.
Meidani shot a look over his bowed head, widening her eyes at Anelace. What? she seemed to be asking.
Anelace pointedly slid her gaze down to the guy's ass, the jean-filling body part she remembered Meidani checking out.
Meidani's eyes opened further, too wide for scandal and too guilty for shock. And now she was blushing.
The kid finally found a thought somewhere in his hat. "Listen, what do you like to do? After work?"
Meidani's eyes turned desperate, and she was looking right at Anelace for help. The question was too open-ended for her. She enjoyed small talk the way ship cats enjoyed baths. Until Meidani got comfortable, it was best to keep questions unobtrusive but specific.
Anelace's fingers twitched to cover the kid's mouth. Every time he spoke, he torpedoed her plans. Instead, she deflected the doomed conversation. "Hey Doc, sorry to interrupt, but I need a favor."
"Of course you do. I heard there was a bounty on," Meidani sounded aggrieved, but the tightness in her forehead softened. "How hurt are you?"
"Just a little."
"Yeah, right. Okay, just let me…" she gestured at the dish-stacked tables. "They're driving me crazy. Stuff is congealing."
When the kid moved to help Meidani, Anelace held him back. An amateur clearing tables would just slow her down and put that little tension wrinkle back between her eyes.
When the doctor slash barmaid slash busser moved to the next table, her admirer shot Anelace a calculating look, like a five-year old trying his hand at card sharping. "You're her friend, right?"
Anelace and Meidani had met in primary school. Anelace, with tangled hair and deadbeat parents, had been there but ignored lessons and counted down the time until meals. Meidani had been the opposite, a smart cookie in a pretty white dress one year older and a decade more mature.
They'd left school acquaintances, though. They met again recently when the quack doc Anelace used to see had died. Meidani had taken over his clientele of illegals, outlaws, and the paranoid.
"Yeah, I'm her friend."
The kid was twisting his hands again, fidgeting his hat between them.
"One tip: don't ruin your hat. It's a nice hat."
He chuckled feebly.
Anelace wore her own hat. It was darker brown leather, more utilitarian than the kid's hat. She'd bought it with her first big bounty take. She'd been seventeen years old with internal bleeding and recently deceased parents, but at least she'd had a nice hat.
Meidani returned from the kitchen. She was more relaxed now, and pulling off the white sackcloth apron that covered her jeans. She pointed to the back, and Anelace motioned the kid in front of her.
"Derek, it was good seeing you. Thanks for dropping by. But I need to check out Anelace's injuries. Can I finish talking to you some other time?"
Meidani dismissed the poor kid ruthlessly, in a tone sweeter than peach pie. The poor kid was shut down before he even got a chance.
Anelace was not oddly relieved. And she would not snicker.
Lesbian romance meets adventure in the first Rosewood Space Western.
The hellcat of Rosewood station is the best of the best. Anelace Rios is a good old-fashioned troublemaker, fiercely independent, and best of all, a steady hand with a flamethrower. Carnivorous amoeba are slowly taking over the half-abandoned mining port, and the freelance exterminator rakes in big bounties killing them off—then she spends those bounties in a grand way. Work hard, play hard.
Meidani Sintlere's reputation is exactly the opposite of her wild friend. She's the station’s hardworking black market doctor. She’s shy. She's nice. She's got a weakness for imported chocolate and pastel dresses. And she gets mad as a sani-vacced cat when Anelace shows up missing chunks of skin.
The hellcat never lacks for a willing partner. Even so, Meidani's got notions to cut to the front of the line and stay there. She upends everything Anelace knows about good girls and the bad girls who don’t deserve them, and in a blisteringly hot night they go from friends to lovers.
But their new closeness forces the kind of reckoning even tough Anelace can't escape unscathed. She thrives on her job, relishes the payoff, but now she's endangering more than her own adrenaline-junkie hide—every run risks Meidani’s happiness. For the first time, Anelace is risking her shot at love.
"Renae Jones's Hellcat's Bounty has all the things I love about science fiction romance.
- Amazing world building—You can feel the grime and grit of Rosewood station under your fingernails and on your skin. The decay of the station provides a wonderful backdrop to the blossoming new relationship between Anelace and Meidani.
- Characters you want to drink with—Tea or whiskey. Maybe both. Everyone from the main characters to the secondary and tertiary ones are real people you'd run into on the street. Or space station.
- Heart pounding action—Anelace's job lends itself to never-ending excitement and tension, and adds to the conflict between the two women.
- A sweet-hot love story—The old-fashioned courtship between Anelace and Meidani makes you swoon and go "Awww!" but when the two are alone together, the love scenes are Yowza! hot (though still sweet)."
– Cathy Pegau, award-winning author of Caught in Amber and Deep Deception