Summer! Made it!

Freedom car travel concept - woman relaxing

Freedom car travel concept – woman relaxing with feet out of window in cool convertible vintage car. Girl relaxing enjoying free holidays road trip.

Hi!

I just finished my last day of classes for the spring 2018 semester last night! There are still some meetings to survive, and more papers to grade than I want to think about, but summer is so close I can smell the sunscreen!

Who am I kidding? I’m not going to need sunscreen, because I’m going to spend the summer like I always do–writing my fingertips off.

(Actually, the hubs and I are taking a romantic road trip up the Pacific Coast this summer, but I think my need for sunscreen might remain minimal in the Pacific Northwest, lol!)

Since I’ve finished writing everything I’m going to publish for the balance of this year (and I’m about 85K words into a book I’m going to publish in 2019), I thought I’d take a minute to update my release schedule and firm up some deets for you–and talk a little about what’s on deck this summer for writing, and some hints about what you might see beyond that.

So, first: a reminder and firm-up of my plans for the rest of 2018. No more tentative dates; here are the releases still to come this year:

2 June: Fight, The Brazen Bulls MC #6. That’s already been announced, and you can find details here. I’m going to set up the preorder this weekend, so keep an eye out.

14 July: The Pagano Brothers #1 (title and cover to be revealed in June–look for a post introducing the whole series then, too). This is the first book of a mafia romance series, spinning off from the Pagano Family series. Book 1 is Trey Pagano’s book. He’s all grown up now. Heh.

1 September: The Brazen Bulls MC #7 (title and cover to be revealed mid-summer).  I’ll announce which Bull has the lead here when I reveal the cover and title, but if you’ve been reading the series, I hinted at this couple in Honor.

13 October: The Sawtooth Mountains Stories #2. (title and cover to be revealed in September). This is Logan’s story. If you’ve read Somewhere, then you’ve already met his One True Love.

24 November: At the beginning of the year, I told you I wanted to write a Christmas novella, and I wrote one! I’m going to drop this after Thanksgiving–no preorder or anything, just a release. Until then, I’m gonna leave the mystery intact. Like a wrapped package. 😉

As for my summer plans…

Last summer, I used my expansive writing time to stretch my wings into a new genre, and I wrote Aurora Terminus, my post-apocalyptic science fiction novel. This year, I’m going to give another favorite genre, epic fantasy, a whirl. Oh, I love my idea for this one so very much!!! But I’m also freakin’ terrified to try a story on a scale this big. So we’ll see.

I’ve also got another historical romance on deck. And a couple other wing-stretchy projects to dabble around with this summer, if there’s time.

Oh! And I’m gonna read! I have so many cool books on my TBR right now!

Finally, I’ll be in Cincinnati, OH on Saturday, 28 July for the Motorcycles, Mobsters, and Mayhem Event. Check the link for details. If I’ll see you there, you can preorder books for that event here.

Updates on current series:

I’m just about done writing the final book of the Brazen Bulls MC (Book 8), which will come out early in 2019. After that, there’s going to be a bit of a biker lull in my schedule for a while. When the Bulls are done, that will be 27 novels and novellas I’ve written about outlaw bikers in the past 5 years (not to mention all the SOA fanfic I wrote before that), and I’m gonna need to recharge those batteries.

What can you expect in the meantime?

Well, there’s a prequel standalone for Delaney and Mo in the offing eventually, maybe in 2019, but the research on that one has been a bit of a slog, so I’m not ready to commit to it quite yet. Lola is chasing other stories at the moment.

The Sawtooth Mountains series is just getting going, and I can see that series ending up in the 4-6 book range. I love Jasper Ridge almost as much as I love Signal Bend, and there are a few residents there whose story I want to get my hands on.

Same with the Pagano Brothers. I’m only beginning to plumb the dark depths of Nick’s side of the pews, and that world is a place Lola can really slake her bloodthirst, so I expect that series to go 4-6 books as well.

I’ve had a few readers ask if there will be more books in the world of Aurora Terminus. The answer is…maybe. AT has an ending that could be simply the end, or it could branch off into more story. I have ideas for enough story to make a trilogy. But right now, I’m not sure if there will be more.

Though I love it now and think it turned out great, writing AT was absolutely the most difficult, soul-rending, confidence-busting experience of my writing career to date, so I’m not yet ready to leap into that volcano again. AT didn’t really get noticed out in the world, either (mainly because I 100% suck at doing literally anything that would get my work noticed). Selling books is not my primary motivation for writing (were that the case, I’d write nothing but bikers and cowboys), but when I’m facing a painful writing task that I might not enjoy, not selling books doesn’t exactly get my juices flowing, lol.

So, anyway…

I have a few plans for this fall, too (besides the obvious writing, writing, writing–oh, and teaching, teaching, teaching), but other than Penned Con 18 in September, they’re not fixed well enough for me to say much about them, except keep an eye out for more info.

Beyond that, who knows what the future holds!

All I know right now is THANK GOD IT’S (almost) SUMMER! Now, where’s the tequila?

xoxo
s–

 

Summer drinks with blur beach on background

Summer drinks with blur beach on background

Aurora Terminus is LIVE!!

 

AT digital2.jpg

Aurora Terminus, my (zombie-free) post-apocalyptic novel, went live today! It’s available for Kindle and other platforms. Paperbacks will be available soon as well.

You might notice that I’m using a different variation of my name for this. I decided to do that since this is a different genre (there’s definitely a love story, but it’s not the focus of the book). I have social media set up as S.E. Fanetti and I had to set up a Goodreads account in that name as well. If you’re of a mind, I’d love to get some likes on those accounts.

I hope you enjoy Aurora Terminus. It was a wild ride to write it.

And if you’re here for the bikers, the sixth book of the Brazen Bulls MC is my next release. I’ll have more details about it soon!

Cheers!
s–

Nothing on Earth & Nothing in Heaven is LIVE!!

suffragette digital cover FINAL

Nothing on Earth & Nothing in Heaven is my favorite book I’ve written, and possibly the best book I can write, and it’s live now on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, and B&N. I’ve approved the proof of the paperback version as well, and that should be available any time now on Amazon.

NOE&NIH is a historical romance set between 1910-1920, during the fight for women’s suffrage.

Here’s the synopsis:

England, 1910.

Lady Nora Tate is a young woman caught between the expectations of her station and the demands of her own heart and mind. The noble world of her birth is a luxurious cage, locking her away from all she wishes to know and feel and do, the woman she wishes to be. All around her, the world is changing, and she fights to join it, even as she creates scandal with her every attempt to break free.

William Frazier is the scion of an American railroad tycoon, in England to seek new business opportunities for his family’s empire and visit his good friend, Lord Christopher Tate. With Chris as his guide, he tours the London Season, and meets his friend’s younger sister. He’s captivated at once by the lovely young lady with the sharp wit and searching eyes.

Raised by visionary parents, William sees Nora’s cage for what it is and admires her striving against constraint. But her world will neither free her, nor accept him. William would be her hero and save her, but Nora wants to save herself, if she can.

Set against the tumultuous cultural and political backdrop of the end of the Edwardian Era, on two continents and across an ocean, Nothing on Earth & Nothing in Heaven is a story about the deep love between a young woman finding her voice, and the man strong enough to stand at her side as she demands the right to use it.

2018: What the New Year Holds

Get lost, 2017. Hello, 2018!

Well, I thought 2016 was rude, but 2017 was positively abusive. Can’t say I’m sorry to see that nasty jerk walk out the door. 2018, if I let you in, you have to promise to behave—and maybe help clean up some of the mess 2017 left.

From a personal perspective, there’s a lot about 2017 I’d like to scrub from my memory, but from my writing life, there are a few things I’d like to pin for safekeeping.

#1: I went to my first signing, Penned Con in St. Louis, and got to meet some lovely FANetties and a bunch of other wonderful readers, as well as some very cool authors! 😀

#2: I published six novels, finishing my personally beloved Northwomen Sagas, continuing the popular Brazen Bulls MC, and beginning the Sawtooth Mountains Stories—and I got a lot of much-appreciated support for the odd way the first Sawtooth book, Somewhere, found new life. I’m so glad I decided to put that book back in the world under my own name, and I’m so grateful for the love and support of my readers, and for the new readers Somewhere has found! ❤

#3: I wrote seven novels (plus about a third of an eighth), challenged myself in new directions, and created a serious backlog of completed, unpublished work. I’m going to publish more often in 2018 and try to catch up with myself.

Even with a faster publishing pace, most of the work I plan to release in 2018 is already written, so now, on the first day of the year, it seems a good time to look forward to the new year and tell you what I know of my publishing plans—and other details of my writing life you might be interested in.

My 2018 Plans:

The way I mean to begin catching up with my backlog is to go back to a six week (or so) publishing schedule. That’s already underway, as my first book of 2018 is going live six weeks after my last book of 2017. I fudged that six-week thing a bit here and there to get release days to sync up with or get out of the way of other days in my personal calendar, but I think I’ll be able to put out 8 new releases this year.

Since so much of the work I mean to release this year is already completed at least in first draft, I can be pretty specific for dates through most of the year. To wit:

13 January: Nothing on Earth & Nothing in Heaven
This is a standalone historical romance, set in the Edwardian Era. The female lead is an English suffragette (and a noblewoman), and the male lead is an American industrialist. It’s a big story, half again as long as most of my other books (which tend to be a bit long anyway), and absolutely my best work to date, IMO.

Every book I publish is the best version of that book I can write at that time. I think NOE&NIH might be the best book I can write, period.

Find a preview here.

The preorder is available now on Amazon and Kobo, iBooks, and B&N.

24 February: Honor, The Brazen Bulls MC Book 5
I guess this counts as a title reveal, though the cover reveal is a few weeks off. Honor is Apollo’s story. More details when I reveal the cover, toward the end of the month.

7 April: Aurora Terminus
This is a departure for me—it’s a post-apocalyptic story. That’s my favorite genre to read, but until this past year, I hadn’t written in it. While it is absolutely a love story, told in the dual POV of two characters who fall in love and become a committed couple, it’s not quite a romance, according to the genre guidelines. The story is bigger than the relationship between the couple, and the focus is really on how they navigate their broken world and work to build up a new one.

And the sex all fades to black. You know I’m not prim about writing explicit sex, but the vibe of this story never felt quite right for that. So it’s definitely a love story and definitely romantic, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on, and some stuff not going on (on the page, at least–they totally bang, they just do it in private), so not a romance. Still, I hope you like it. I’m proud of it.

It has the potential to be a series, and there’s more story I want to tell with some secondary characters, but it’s also a standalone.

Late last summer, I signed Aurora Terminus with a small press, and when all the paperwork was done, they and I both announced the deal. When we started to get the ball rolling to work together, however, it became quickly apparent that how I work and how they work didn’t mesh especially well. I asked if we might reconsider working together, and they were kind enough to let me out of the contract. It was all very calm and amicable, for which I’m really grateful.

Anyway, I’m publishing AT myself, as usual. Since it’s a different genre, I’m using a different variation of my name—S.E. Fanetti—and I have social media accounts set up in that name, which I intend to start using now. I’ll keep both “identities” linked and share AT news on my usual social media as well.

You can find links to S.E. Fanetti social media here. Please throw me a like/follow over there, if you’re of a mind. Those accounts will be more active as of now.

2 June: The Brazen Bulls MC Book 6
This one is done, has a title and even a pretty solid draft of a cover, but I’m not sharing any information about it until Honor is released. With seven books of the BBMC series written, I’m pretty sure this is the best of the bunch–it’s definitely the one closest to my heart. A bit different from the others, though. You’ll see. 🙂

14 July: The Pagano Brothers Book 1 (TENTATIVE)
The first book of a new Mafia romance series. If Deep is your favorite book of the Pagano Family series, then you’ll probably like this series, which will focus on the Pagano Brothers organization. I’m writing Book 1 now, and on my FB author page a couple of weeks ago, I shared the first few words I wrote. This story is developing in ways that surprise and challenge me, and I have no idea where it’s going. But I’m 30K+ words in at this point, so I feel confident enough it’s going to get finished and be worthwhile that I’m willing to stick my neck out and give it a likely release date.

The Pagano Brothers series begins where the epilogue to Miracle, and the whole Pagano Family series, ends, which is a little more than twenty years after that series begins. Carlo’s son, Trey, is grown, and Book 1 is his story.

In this series, I also want to write a story for Donnie Goretti, who became known in the Pagano Family series as The Face. And I kinda want Angie Corti, Tina Corti Pagano’s brother, to get a story, too; he caught my interest when I was writing Miracle, the conclusion of the Pagano Family series. Beyond that, we’ll see what characters ‘pop’ and demand their own stories. I kinda know where, and with whom, I want the series eventually to end, but it’s far too early to say that out loud.

28 JULY: MOTORCYCLES, MOBSTERS AND MAYHEM, Cincinnati, OH
I’ll be attending this themed author event for lovers of biker and mobster romance! I’ll have a preorder form up soon.

1 September: The Brazen Bulls MC Book 7
This one is written, too, but it’s too early to say more about it. It’ll be the last BBMC book of 2018, but not the end of the series. The series will end in 2019, with Book 8 and a subsequent standalone prequel.

20-22 SEPTEMBER: PENNEDCON 2018, St. Louis, MO
And I’ll be back at Penned Con this year, too! Again, I’ll have a preorder form up soon.

Okay, that’s what I know about 2018. Here’s what I’m planning for the rest of the year, but since it hasn’t been written or started yet, I can’t be sure. Don’t want to take Lola for granted, you know. She’s prickly.

13 October: The Sawtooth Mountains Stories #2 (TENTATIVE)
This book here is the whole reason I decided to put Somewhere back out in the world, and I haven’t even written it yet. Sigh. I’ll admit to a little anxiety about starting this one, but it’s next in the queue. It will be Logan’s story, and that’s all I’ll say about it for now.
Assuming that I get Logan’s story written (please, Lola), I do have other ideas in mind for this series. I really love my little town of Jasper Ridge, Idaho.

Finally … in December …
I want to put out a Christmas book. I don’t actually have an idea yet for it, haha, but I’ve wanted to write a Christmas book for a couple of years now, and this is the year I mean to do it, dammit!

In other words, I have no frakkin’ clue what I’ll put out in December. Hopefully a Christmas book, maybe taking place in one of my series. Or another installment in one of the current series. Or something else. 2018 will tell.

And that’s my plan, so far, for the next twelve months.

As for what I plan to write this year: More Brazen Bulls, more Pagano Brothers, more Sawtooth. That Christmas story, should inspiration strike. And I’ve got an idea for another standalone historical romance that I’m pretty stoked about.

Beyond that … whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.

I wish you health, happiness, and calm in the new year!

Salut!
s—

Cover reveal and preview! BLAZE, BBMC #4

blaze digital cover

Happy Saturday!

Today, I’m revealing the cover of the next Brazen Bulls MC book. Blaze, Book 4, is Simon’s story. If you’re caught up with the series, you know that we left things off in Book 3 (Slam), with the club in conflict with the Street Hounds, a gang that had taken over the the north side of Tulsa from Dyson, a longstanding crew with whom the Bulls had had a primarily (but not entirely) peaceful relationship. Well, in Blaze, that conflict becomes an all-out war. A whole lot happens in Blaze. Things get pretty damn intense–for the club and for their family.

But the heart of the story is Simon and Deb, Gunner’s sister. They started up a friendly “booty call” relationship a couple of years back, and they kept that to themselves. You might remember the scene at the end of Slam when Gunner notices Simon checking out her ass and wonders if there’s something going on there. Mav blows it off, but Gun was right.

Not that he’s happy about it when he finds out. Ha! No.

As often happens, there’s only so long that two good friends can bang each other’s brains out on the regular before “friends with benefits” is not all they are. Blaze begins as Simon and Deb start to figure that out–at the same time that war breaks out in Tulsa.

Blaze will go live on Saturday, 2 December 2017. I’ll set up the preorder as usual, about mid-November. In the meantime, here’s the synopsis–and, as a preview, the prologue, which takes place in 1996, two years before the present time in Blaze.

In Twist, which takes place in 1996, the Bulls ride out to Gunner and Leah’s hometown, Grant, after a deadly tornado. Gunner rides toward Leah, in town, and two of his brothers veer off and ride toward his family farm, to check on Gunner’s dad and sister. Simon is one who rides off to check on Sam and Deb Wesson.

And their relationship begins.

SYNOPSIS:

Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1998

Simon Spellman isn’t a native Oklahoman. He’s a city boy, born and raised in Chicago, but he’s lived in Tulsa, and worn a Brazen Bull on his back, for years. Tulsa is his home, and the Bulls his family—the only one he claims, and the only one he wants. As far as he’s concerned, life as a Bull is too risky, and the club too demanding, to make room for anyone else.

Especially now, while the Brazen Bulls MC stands on the brink of war, smack in the middle of their hometown.

Debra Wesson has been part of the Bulls family since her younger brother first put on a kutte. She’s known Simon for years; since a crisis threw them together a couple years back, she’s known him intimately. They are perfectly compatible, both adventurous in bed and neither interested in a relationship. They’ve enjoyed each other and kept their hookups a secret from her volatile brother and everyone else.

Until they realize that friends with benefits has become something much deeper, despite their guards against it, and they’re forced to contend with what’s real between them.

But it’s dangerous to be a Bull, or to love one, right now, as the conflict with the Street Hounds finds its flashpoint. With the enemy standing just on the other side of town, there’s no safe place to be.

When war hits home, everything that matters is in the line of fire.

Note: explicit sex and violence.

 

PREVIEW:

PROLOGUE

October 1996

Simon and Apollo rode side by side over one of those narrow country roads that didn’t even rate a set of yellow lines down the center. Both their bikes—Apollo’s ’93 Wide Glide and Simon’s ’90 Super—had 1300-plus CC engines and drag pipes and were loud as hell, yet the world around them felt heavy and eerily quiet. It was twilight, and their headlamps swept over a landscape that seemed a step or two off normal. Nothing obvious to see, just a feeling Simon couldn’t shake.

Tornadoes had missed this area, but the storm that had brought a bevy of them had not. Maybe that was the off-ness: the usual scatter left by a hard storm seemed wrong in contrast with the destruction that had brushed by them like the touch of an angry stranger passing by.

Simon was freaked out. He’d lived in Oklahoma most of his adult life, and he’d been through a couple of actual tornadoes and more watches and warnings than he could count. But this had been a strange year for storms. He’d never known so many twisters to touch down in the same storm, and he’d never known one to hit Tulsa itself. He’d been around for only one other F5, and that one had dug a trench through miles of Oklahoma, vaporizing everything in its path.

This big daddy hadn’t hit Tulsa on the nose, either. The city had gotten tagged by a couple of smaller ones, an F0 and an F1. Damage and inconvenience, a few low-level injuries. The clubhouse had taken some damage, but nothing that couldn’t be set to rights in a weekend. Mostly blown-out windows and the like.

But out here in Osage County, God had put his hand down on the ground and swept it clear.

Simon and Apollo had veered off from their brothers, who’d headed toward the little town of Grant, which had taken the F5 straight up the ass. The early reports and images they’d seen before they’d split the clubhouse suggested that their brothers were arriving at a cataclysm. It had sounded like Grant was just about gone, and a lot of its residents had gone with it.

Gunner’s new girl was from Grant, and she’d been in town, as far as they knew, for the twister.

Gunner was from Grant, too, more or less. Simon and Apollo were on their way to check on his family’s farm, and on his family—his dad and sister. They were out of the F5’s path, just barely—Simon had heard that the thing had been more than a mile wide—but they were Gunner’s family, and practically club themselves, and Gunner couldn’t be in two places at once. Leah had been right in the heart, so Gunner was there. Apollo and Simon would take care of the rest of his family.

And, Simon hoped, the brothers with Gunner could hold him together.

They rode around a hairpin, and a low valley opened up before them. In the falling darkness, Simon could see the Wesson farm, barely making out the pretty little white farmhouse—the dusk-to-dawn light was out. All the lights were out.

That was what was so strange about the way the world looked—it was always dark in the country, but they’d passed several farms, and not a single light anywhere.

As they passed the fields, he couldn’t tell if there’d been damage. Luckily, the harvest was done, so no crops had been lost. At the bottom of the long, low hill, they turned onto the gravel drive. Simon had been here quite a few times, helping out with the sowing or the harvest when Gunner sent up a call for it, and he knew that the gravel was white quartz that sparkled in the sun. Sam Wesson kept up his place. But the big black mailbox was gone from its white post and nowhere to be seen in the dark. The post itself listed drunkenly.

They parked their bikes at the end of the drive, and they saw the next signs of the storm: Sam’s big old pickup and Debra’s station wagon were off the drive, shifted sharply to the left as if a broom had come by and pushed them out of the way. The truck was flush against the garage, and the station wagon wasn’t square on the ground; it had been pushed so hard against the truck that one of the wheels had come up about a foot or so.

It took a lot of force to move cars that size that much.

“Shit,” Apollo muttered. “You think they’re okay?”

Simon studied the darkness in the direction of the house. He’d thought they were coming to do a quick check-in so they could assure Gunner that his dad and sister were okay. Now, he wasn’t sure. Without answering Apollo, he headed toward the house.

“DEB?” he called. “SAM?” Apollo picked up the call, and they crossed the yard, yelling.

No longer twilight, full dark had landed on the night, and Simon tried to remember the layout of the yard. He could barely see the porch, but he felt his way to it and put his foot on the first step, calling their names all the while.

“Here,” came Deb’s voice off the side of the porch. She came around the side of the house, a pale arc from a flashlight leading her way. She shined it up at them. “Hey. We were in the cellar. Dad’s hurt.”

Changing course, they met her at the corner of the porch.

“How bad?” Apollo asked.

“The cellar door hit him in the head when we were trying to get down. Knocked him out. He says he’s okay, but he was out for a couple of minutes, and his head is bleeding. Scared the crap out of me.”

She turned around right away to retrace her steps, but Simon grabbed her arm. “Hey. You okay?”

“Yeah.” Behind the flashlight, she was no more than a vague shape. Pulling herself free from his grip, she headed toward the slant doors of the cellar. “Shaken up. We heard about what happened in town.” At the open doors, standing at the top of the cellar stairs, she turned and faced him. “Is Max okay?”

Max was Gunner’s given name. “Yeah—it wasn’t too bad in Tulsa. I don’t know how he’s doing in Grant, though. Leah was there.”

“Fuck.”

“I hate that word,” her old man called up from below. “What’s wrong?”

Simon followed Deb down, and Apollo followed him. He and Apollo were both over six feet, so they bent low to make their way down.

A battery-operated Coleman lantern made a bright circle in the dark cellar. The farmhouse was more than a hundred years old, and the cellar was probably not much changed from the hole it had started out as. Dirt floor, wood slat walls, the house resting on hunky wooden support beams sunk in concrete. Heavy wooden shelving units that held the wide assortment of junk a country life accumulated. In the bright circle of lantern light, Simon could make out a few of those units. One of them was lined with Mason jars. Deb had a robust roadside produce stand in the spring and summer and canned a lot to sell in the winter.

“Max’s okay,” Apollo answered, hunched over beside Simon. “But Leah was in Grant when it happened.”

“Fuck,” Sam Wesson muttered, and Simon laughed. It sounded all kinds of wrong. Sam, sitting on a stack of aged Mason jar crates at the end of that preserves unit, holding a bandana—its fabric faded to grey and soaked with blood—to the top of his head, looked up at him. “She hurt? Max’ll…” He didn’t finish.

Simon crouched down so Sam didn’t have to crane his neck. “Don’t know. He’s there now. He’s got brothers at his back.” Nodding at Sam’s head, he asked, “What happened here?”

“It’s nothing. Debra fusses over everything.” His cheek was scraped up, too.

Debra scoffed and shoved her hands onto her hips. “Dad, you got knocked out. You need to go to the hospital.”

“I need no such thing. I barely closed my eyes.”

Blood had run in streams through the man’s white hair and striped his neck and plaid, pearl-buttoned shirt. It still looked wet. “Sam, can I take a look?”

“You a doctor all a sudden, Simon?”

“No sir, but I’ve seen my share of bloody wounds.”

That made the old man chuckle. “S’pose you have.” He took his hand away, dropping it with evident relief to his lap, and Simon took a look.

Just past the middle of his noggin was a goose egg, its center split open. “It’s pretty deep, Sam. You’re gonna need stitches to close it up. Yeah, you need the ER.”

Sam sighed and put the bandana back in place. “Fine. How’ll Max know where we are?”

Simon didn’t answer; his brain was occupied with the question of how they were going to get to Osage Regional Hospital. He and Apollo had ridden, and the Wesson vehicles were shoved up against each other in such a way that they wouldn’t be able to simply pull one out.

“I’ll ride to Grant and find him,” Apollo offered.

Simon nodded. “Wait up, though. We need to figure out how to get Deb’s wagon free.”

“What?” Deb asked. “What happened? Oh God, is there a lot of damage?”

Her voice had started up that ramp to panic that women took sometimes, and with that always came tears. Simon hated it when chicks cried. He took hold of her arm again and gave it a quick stroke. Even through the sweater she wore, he felt slim firmness, and a little bulge of bicep when she pulled free.

“Easy,” he said. “It’s not a big deal, and we didn’t see much damage. Wind just knocked ‘em around a little.”

“Them?”

Deciding that such questions were better answered with their own eyes, he asked, “Can you walk, Sam?”

“Course I can walk,” he barked and stood up. He wasn’t tall, so he could stand straight, but his hand was still on his head, and his knuckles nearly grazed the beams from the floor above.

“Then ‘Pollo, grab the lantern. Let’s go up and you can see for yourselves. And we’ll figure out how to get the wagon free.”

~oOo~

They got the wagon free when Simon drove the tractor over and they winched it. Sam’s truck was totaled, bent around the corner of the garage and sandwiched between that and Deb’s station wagon, and the wagon was pretty rumpled, but it ran. Apollo rode off toward Grant, and Simon drove Deb and Sam to the hospital.

By the time they were ready to go, Sam was not steady. He took the back seat and leaned his head back. He went quiet, but Simon checked the rearview mirror and could see his chest rising, deep and steady, and he was still holding a bandana—a fresh one, from the glove box of his truck—on his head.

Deb sat in front, chewing on her thumbnail and swiveling her head back and forth, checking on her father.

“I can see him in the rearview, Deb. I’ll let you know if he looks like trouble. You’re gonna give yourself whiplash.”

“Just restin’ my eyes,” came a tired, scratchy voice from behind them.

They rode quietly for a while. Osage Regional Hospital wasn’t all that close; they had more than a half-hour ride. Simon thought about turning on the radio to fill the empty air but decided that was insensitive, considering. Besides, he had no idea what kind of music Deb liked. He’d hate to switch it on and find his ears assaulted by Celine Dion or some shit.

“That door came slamming down, and he dropped down the steps and just lay there. Jesus, Simon. A tornado already took half our family. How much more does God want?”

And there were the tears. Dammit. Not knowing what else to do, but wanting the waterworks to stop just as quickly as possible, Simon reached over and took hold of the hand she hadn’t been chewing on. “Hey, hey. Everybody’s okay. Your dad just needs his head sewn up. Gun’s fine. You’re fine. The farm is fine.”

Simon didn’t know much about Gunner’s family history. He knew that their mother was dead, of course. And maybe there’d been a brother, too? He wasn’t sure. It sounded like that was the case, though. He hadn’t known that they’d been killed in a tornado, but that sounded like the case as well.

That was a hard thing. No wonder Deb was freaked out now. No wonder Gunner was crazy always.

She kept crying. Shit. So Simon held her hand and kept his eyes on the road and tried to pretend that she wasn’t. After a very long minute, she took a deep, shaking breath and got herself together. She squeezed his hand and pulled free, opening the glove box and rooting out a little packet of tissues. In the glow from the glove box light before she slammed it closed, Simon caught a dull metallic flash: she had a little snub-nose revolver in there.

“Sorry.” She muttered the word into her tissue, then honked her nose clear. Simon couldn’t help but grin. He was used to chicks preening around him, every little move made for an audience. Sure, the conditions on this night were hardly favorable for flirting, but now that he thought of it, he didn’t think Debra Wesson had ever behaved like she’d noticed that he, or any Bull, for that matter, was a man. Or that she herself was hot.

Because she was. Quite hot, in fact. Skinny, and not much in the chest department, but a very nice face. And all that wild black hair? That was something else.

He blinked all that out of his head as the bright lights of the hospital rose up ahead. “Don’t worry about it,” he finally replied to her apology. “It’s a rough night. ‘Course you’re emotional.”

“Yeah,” she sighed and twisted her neck to check on her father again. “Dad, we’re here.”

Silence from the back seat.

“Daddy?” Panic leapt back into her voice.

“Okay, Debra. I’m okay. Take a breath.”

She did, and then wiped her cheeks again with the sodden tissue.

Simon pulled through the ambulance lane and parked in a no-parking zone. He helped Sam—who took the help with a bad attitude, despite his shaky balance—into the ER, then ran out and parked the wagon in the patient lot. The lot was nearly full, and he had to park way in the back.

It was going to be a long night.

~oOo~

The sun was up when he pulled back into the Wesson driveway, with only Deb as a passenger. Sam had eleven stitches and a concussion, and they were keeping him for a night or two, concerned about his loss of consciousness. Leah was in the hospital, too, hurt pretty badly. Gunner was doing okay with the stress of that, but the Bulls planned to do a rotation to make sure he wasn’t on his own until Leah was out of the woods. They spent a lot of time babysitting that guy.

Leah’s father had died in the storm. A lot of people in Grant had been killed or hurt; Simon hadn’t heard an official count yet, but a rumor going around the hospital said that it was several dozen dead and more than that injured. Grant itself had been killed. Most of the town was nothing but splinters.

In the bright sun of a fall morning, the damage to the Wesson farm was obvious—and not that bad. Some fencing down, some broken windows, a few smaller pieces of equipment overturned. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed with enough muscle, and insurance would cover anything big. Considering what had happened a few miles off, lucky was not a strong enough word for what they were.

“Thanks for the ride,” Deb said as she put her hand on the door.

Simon laughed. “It’s your car, hon.” He nodded toward the front. “Had to come back for my bike anyway.”

“Ah, right.” She smiled. It was the first one he’d seen since he’d gotten caught in her flashlight beam the night before. She had great dimples. “Well, then, just thanks. You were a huge help.”

“No problem. Gun’s family is my family.” He opened the driver’s door as she opened the passenger side, and the sound of angry chickens about knocked them back.

“Shit, the animals,” Deb groaned. “I locked them in before the storm and didn’t give them another thought. Idiot!”

Like he was agreeing with her self-assessment, a rooster crowed.

“Shit!” she said again. “Dandy gets so mean when they’re closed up too long. And after last night, they’ll all be agitated.”

“I’m still here, Deb. I’ll help.”

“Yeah? Thank you.” Her eyes sparkled. Oh God no, was she going to cry again?

Hoping to hold them off, he grinned. “No problem. But if I get attacked by an angry rooster, you supply the Band-Aids.”

“Deal.” She gave him a dimpled grin back, the clouds of tears clearing from her eyes, and they headed to the coop.

~oOo~

They turned the chickens loose. Deb didn’t want to turn the horses out to pasture until she could ride the fence lines, so they released them into the paddock.

Simon helped Deb clean up the coop and stalls, and they went into the house, where he helped her put boards on the broken windows and clean up the mess. Then she made him lunch—a couple of big turkey and cheese sandwiches on homemade white bread, with a mountain of potato chips. And beer. Good eats.

By the time she walked him to the boarded-up front door, though, Simon was absolutely fucking exhausted, and Deb looked not much brighter.

She leaned on the edge of the open door. “Thank you so much, Simon. I honestly don’t know how I’d’ve gotten through the night and day without you.”

“Don’t mention it, hon. Glad I could help. Like I said, Gun’s family is my family.” On the compulsion of some mysterious force, he brushed his fingertip down her nose. Cute nose. Straight and delicate. “You should get some rest.”

She looked up at him. Her eyes were pretty, too. This close, eyes he’d always thought of as simply ‘light’ turned out to be grey and green and brown. Hazel, he thought the color was called. Rimmed with long black lashes.

“Yeah,” she breathed, and the sound was…something had changed. “You should, too.”

Simon’s cock stirred. The air between them suddenly crackled like a storm front, and he was no longer thinking about how tired he was. That compulsion still had hold of him, and before he could consider what he was doing, his hand went around her neck, under all that hair, and he bent down and kissed her.

She let go of the door and wrapped her arms around him, kissing him back at once, her tongue shooting forward and finding his, twisting and lapping together. He went for her sweater, shoving his hand under it, pushing it up, finding her tits. They were covered in soft cotton, and so little. His hand took all of one and had space left over, but her nipple was like a rock against his palm, and that was beautiful. He shunted the cotton to the side and gave that hard nub a pinch.

Deb leapt back, out of his arms. “Shit,” she gasped.

“Yeah.” His breathing wasn’t any steadier.

They just stood there, panting, and stared at each other.

He needed to go. Under the heading ‘Reasons Fucking Debra Wesson Is a Bad Idea’ were at least a dozen entries, starting with ‘Gunner’s Sister.’ But he didn’t move.

Neither did she. They stared, and the air crackled.

“I don’t want to be with anybody. Not seriously,” she finally said. “I don’t need the bullshit.”

“Me either.” Get out, get out, get out. His feet wouldn’t move.

She pushed her hair back, trying and failing to tame it behind her ears. She made that move a lot—and he realized, for the first time, that he’d noticed that before.

“Max can’t know.”

Gunner wouldn’t celebrate the idea of his sister with a Bull, that was certainly true. Not even for a one-er. Maybe particularly not for a one-er. “No, he cannot.” Shit, were they doing this? It hadn’t been on his radar at all. Had it? His cock strained at his fly. “Deb…”

She charged forward and closed the distance she’d made, and Simon stopped talking. When she twisted her fingers in his hair and bit down on his lip, he quit thinking. He picked her up and carried her up the stairs, where he assumed her bedroom was.

© 2017 Susan Fanetti

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