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Wow! Such a good story.I enjoyed it so much.I think what got me the most was that I don`t think most people would give a second thought to what kind...
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Desert Heat

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Dannie Marsden's book Desert Heat

I am waiting for the next book to come out! The story was a page turner and I also enjoyed the portrayal of a variety of lesbians and how we interact...
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Faith in Rayne Chapter 1

Chapter One

 

 

 

The storm above was brewing, and it wouldn’t be long before the clouds opened up and rain fell. The tired rider pulled the collar of the duster up to protect herself from the raindrops she knew would be pelting her any minute now. “Well, hell, I suppose this is to be expected given my damn luck lately,” the rider muttered, as she spurred her horse into action. With all the trouble she felt nipping at her heels, she was overwhelmed with the need to put lifetimes between herself and the last town as quickly as possible. She couldn’t be sure she was being followed, but she certainly didn’t want to take a chance.

 

 

Rayne looked up at the sky and the dark, heavy clouds that hung low and threatened to drop their contents at any moment. “We need to get a move on, unless we want to be caught in the downpour that’s headin’ this way,” she looked down at the blanket spread out in the grassy area in front of the creek. Her own smile grew wide when she spotted Ben and his enormous smile that was aimed at her. Never in a million years had she dreamt her life would have turned out this way. Lisbet was busy putting the remnants of the picnic away, while she spoke softly to the young child, whose complete attention was on Rayne.

 

“Come on, tiger, I don’t reckon your ma wants to play your version of catch right now. Let me have that apple so I can give it to her, then you and I can take the basket back to the buckboard. What do you say?” Rayne knelt down beside the toddler and took the apple he offered. “Thank you, love, that’s very good of you to hand that to me.”

 

Standing to her full height again, she looked over at the woman who had begun making her life complete not too long ago. “Let me take the basket to the buckboard. I’ll come back ta get the blanket and Ben, and we can head home. Hopin’ we beat this storm. It looks like it’s gonna be a hell of a downpour.”

 

“Rayne, watch your language; Ben is picking up words left and right. Just the other day, I had to get on him for repeating your favorite word,” Lisbet said, as she looked at Rayne. Her tone was serious, but the tenderness in her eyes showed her love, and it was clearly visible to anyone who knew them both.

 

“I’m sorry, I do need to pay closer attention to what I say. Be right back.” She picked up the picnic basket and headed to the buckboard. With a happy heart, she couldn’t help but smile at the thought that she now had someone in her life who paid attention to what and how she said things. She arranged the basket and headed back to the meadow and her small family. When Ben saw Rayne, he raised his arms, asking her to pick him up, which she did with complete joy. “Ok, tiger. Sweetheart, we ready to go?”

 

Lisbet glanced back at the spot where their blanket had just been spread out and sighed. The little, sad smile on her face told Rayne her sweetheart was disappointed and didn’t want to leave. “Yes, hate leavin’ this place, you know?”

 

“I know. But if we don’t leave now, we’re gonna get caught in whatever is in that nasty lookin’ cloud,” Rayne replied as they walked to the horses and the buckboard. “We’ll come back soon, I promise.”

 

The small family loaded up and was soon on their way back to their small ranch house. Ben fell asleep almost immediately, and the two women were left to enjoy each other’s company and talk about the day they had just enjoyed and their plans for the rest of the evening.

 

Once life settled down for them, it didn’t change much. For Rayne, there was always a fence to mend, a building to repair, and animals to feed. Lisbet dealt with meals, laundry, tending the home and Ben. Rayne couldn’t be happier with the life they had. She felt truly blessed.

 

They were pulling into their homestead when the heavens opened up and giant drops of rain pelted down on them. Rayne pulled the wagon as close to the house as she could and jumped down. Taking Ben from Lisbet’s arms, she carefully held the boy, as she helped her partner from the wagon. Once she had made sure her family was safely inside, she went back out and led the team of horses and the wagon to the barn.

 

Soon Rayne was in the barn, and the big door closed to the elements she went about brushing down her horses. The horses were not only her work instruments, but were a much loved part of her life. The two palomino  horses, Romeo and Juliette, were hard workers and she had pride in them. She spoke softly to Romeo as she brushed his coat. He would turn his head and nuzzle her just as soft while Juliette nibbled on her fresh grass, all while the wind howled and rain pelted the roof.  Rayne had almost finished when the barn door slammed open with a blast of wind and rain. Rayne’s head immediately went up, and her left hand dropped to the Colt strapped to her waist. The sudden movement stopped the stranger in an instant. “Whoa, I don’t mean any harm. I’m just looking for some shelter,” the woman held her hands up in the air.

 

“Sorry, I just wasn’t expectin’ anyone to be out in this weather. Come on in and unsaddle your horse. I got some fresh straw and oats over there. When you’re done, we’ll head to the house and get you warmed up and dried off. Looks to me like you’re drenched.”

 

“I am, thank you. I didn’t mean to just barge in, and I hope you don’t think I was aiming on stealing from you, because I wasn’t.”

 

“Well, thanks for tellin’ me that. To be honest, if you were, you're outta luck. I ain’t got two nickels to rub together.” Rayne laughed, as she tried to put the stranger at ease. True, the woman had startled her, but her senses weren’t screaming danger. She relaxed and hoped the stranger would as well. It wasn’t long before the two were sufficiently at ease with each other and had finished brushing down the horses. “Well, looks like we’re done.” Rayne looked around at the settled horses. “Come on, let’s head in. Lisbet should have supper on the table.”

 

“No, I don’t mean to impose. I was just looking for a dry place to spend the night,” the stranger said. Rayne took a look at the unexpected guest, whose voice was most assuredly feminine and stood before her unmoving. If she had to guess, the female was about five foot four. She had brown hair and was a good looking woman.

 

“I ain’t leavin’ ya out here to starve.” Rayne’s tone didn’t leave a whole lot of room to argue. “What’s your name?” she asked.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry, I’m Eunice.”

 

“Nice to meet ya, Eunice. I’m Rayne. Welcome to the Rockin M.” Together the two headed to the main house. Rayne opened the door. “Lisbet, we got a visitor. You have enough grub to feed one more mouth?”

 

“Of course, don’t be silly. We can always make room for more.” Lisbet walked towards the two, wiping her hands dry. “Welcome, I’m Lisbet,” she said to their guest. Lisbet extended her hand in welcome; her hooded eyes took in the stranger before landing on Rayne.

 

“Lisbet, this here is Eunice. Where’s Ben?” Rayne asked, as she hung up her duster and hat.

 

“He’s in his room playing with his toys.”

 

“Thank you for your hospitality. I got caught in that storm and just needed some shelter and saw your barn. I didn’t mean to cause any harm.”

 

Eunice could only imagine how she looked to the blonde.

 

“Eunice, you have got to be gettin' chilled in those wet clothes. Come on, I’m sure I have somethin’ that will fit you. Once you get dried, we can have supper. How does that sound?” Lisbet led the way to the bedroom. Her smile grew and spread a glow of warmth and welcome.

 

Rayne found herself alone in the sitting room with nothing to do. Questions raced through her mind about the stranger in their home. Who was Eunice, and what was she doing traveling alone? Didn’t she realize that it wasn’t safe for a single woman to ride the countryside without an escort? Hell, Rayne knew all too well, and she hadn’t been dressed in women’s clothing. Unwillingly, her mind went back to those months on the trail with the wagon train she’d joined. The single men made remarks about the women in the caravan behind their husband’s backs, and Rayne saw the barely disguised, lustful looks they cast. She felt the rush of embarrassment creep up her neck, as she thought back on the few times she’d felt it was necessary for her to comment in order to keep her cover as a man.

 

Rayne heard the door to the bedroom open and close. She suspected this was to allow Eunice privacy to change and to give her and Lisbet a chance to talk.

 

“Where—” Lisbet abruptly stopped. “What’s wrong sweetheart?” Lisbet quickly walked up to Rayne, who stood in front of the fire. Although it was spring, there was still a chill in the air at night.

 

“I was just rememberin’ those days and nights on the trail. I wonder why she’s travelin’ alone. It ain’t safe,” Rayne said quietly, as her glance drifted to the closed bedroom door. She absently rubbed the back of her neck.

 

“That worries you doesn’t it?” Lisbet wrapped her arms around Rayne’s waist.

 

“Yeah, I know what men are like on the trail, the comments they make…scares me to think what could happen to her out there. What woulda happened to her if we weren’t here?” Rayne asked.

 

“Have I told you lately just how much I love you?” Lisbet tilted her head up and brought Rayne’s head down for a kiss.

 

Back in the bedroom, Eunice had finished changing out of the wet clothing and decided to take a look around the room. She took in the dark, cherry wood dresser, the hairbrushes that sat on top, and the wash bowl. Everything was simply beautiful, she thought, as her fingers brushed over the wood. She sighed as she wondered if she would ever make her house a home, with furnishings of her own. As her fingertips brushed across the polished wood, she thought about the two women who had taken her in. If you could go on appearances alone, these were good people, people she could truly like. What she felt most of all was love and acceptance, something she seldom found in her travels. She would give anything to feel that in her hometown. Friends, she wished she had friends. She shook off the loneliness and walked to the door.

 

Rayne and Lisbet were in each other’s arms kissing when Eunice took a couple of steps into the parlor. When she saw the two women, she was both embarrassed at what she saw and intrigued. She knew from her time as a prostitute that some women enjoyed other women. She herself had never engaged in that sort of relationship. Standing there watching the two women share an intimate moment, she felt a little curious. Eunice carefully backed into the bedroom, where she took a moment to compose herself. She spoke loudly as she re-entered the sitting room. “I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful dry clothes feel.”

 

Lisbet took a step back and turned to Eunice. “I can imagine. I’m so glad we are able to help you. Storms this time of year can be terrible. Where are you headed to?”

 

“Colorado, I’m meeting up with my husband and his cousin.” Eunice saw a look pass between Rayne and Lisbet and wondered what it was all about. Feeling the subtle shift in the mood between the two, Eunice felt she had inadvertently brought up something she shouldn’t have, but she had no idea what.

 

“I see.” Lisbet brushed at her apron. “Supper’s waitin’. Rayne, show our guest to the table while I get Ben.”

 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset Lisbet,” Eunice said, as Lisbet walked away.

 

“She’ll be fine,” Rayne replied, as she led the way to the table.

 

“Are you sure?” Eunice was not convinced that she hadn’t just given a reason to be put out in the cold rain.

 

“Yeah, ain’t nothin’ we won’t work through,” Rayne said. “I hope you don’t mind venison stew.”

 

 Lisbet walked towards the table with Ben toddling beside her. “Will you look at him, who is this handsome young man?” Eunice asked, as she watched the toddler walk with Lisbet’s help.

 

“This is Ben, our son.” Rayne’s smile was huge, as she lifted the boy and playfully tossed him up in the air. Ben immediately began giggling.

 

A few months prior, Rayne had brought up her plans for the Rockin’ M Ranch; they involved expanding.

 

The expansion itself wasn’t what bothered the blonde. Colorado was the issue. In Lisbet’s mind, Colorado was filled with danger. She imagined murderers and thieves just waiting for an unsuspecting person to walk by to rob, and women were most definitely not safe. The mines were teeming with men who had not seen a woman in who knows how long and were ready to assault any female that happened by. It scared her that Rayne couldn’t see that. The couple began having heated discussions about this expansion. Each argument left Lisbet feeling like she was keeping Rayne from a dream, as though she was keeping Rayne trapped. That was the last thing she ever wanted. To say that the point had become a sore spot in their relationship would be putting it mildly.

 

At the mention of Colorado, Lisbet’s heart sank. She knew they would be discussing the topic, and once again, they would disagree.

 

Lisbet did her best to put her thoughts aside and focus on what was happening around her dinner table. “Rayne, don't get him goin’. We’ll never get him to calm down enough to eat, let alone go to bed,” Lisbet admonished. She couldn’t help but smile; she loved seeing Rayne play with Ben. During the last two and a half years, Rayne had become a different woman. When they met, Rayne was lonely and lost. Although she’d allowed a complete stranger into her home and into her life, she remained guarded. After everything with her father settled and they let go of the fear of losing Ben, Rayne began to laugh more. She’d opened up in a way Lisbet had never expected.

 

“Okay, tiger, Momma says that we have to calm down some. So what do you say we sit right here and have some dinner?” Rayne smiled at Ben. “Hey, say hello to Eunice. She’s our new friend.”

 

Ben buried a shy smile in Rayne’s shoulder, his pudgy little finger in his mouth.

 

“Hello, sweetie,” Eunice said softly.

 

Ben pulled his head away from the shoulder; his blue eyes sparkled, as he smiled and looked at Eunice. With his wet finger, he reached out and touched Eunice’s cheek and quietly said, “Lo.”

 

With a laugh, Eunice said, “What a sweetheart.”

 

“Yes, he is at the moment; but trust me, he is a handful the rest of the time.” Lisbet’s smile showed the pride and love she felt towards her family.

 

“Ain’t that the truth.” Rayne placed the boy in his high chair. “Come on sit, the stew’s gettin' cold.” She nodded at a chair and took her seat.

 

Eunice looked around at the family who had opened their door to her and, for a moment, felt a pang of regret. A part of her ached at the fact that she didn’t have children; but given how her life had turned out, it was probably for the best that the good Lord hadn’t seen fit to allow her any so far. Maybe when she settled in Telluride.

 

Lisbet dished up bowls of the stew, slices of bread, and glasses of cool water. Rayne offered a prayer of thanks for the food, their safety, and new friends. When she finished, they raised their heads and began to eat.

 

“So, Eunice, you said a little bit ago that you’re headin’ to Colorado to meet up with your husband. Mind if I ask what he does for a livin’?” Rayne asked.

 

“Harry is going to mine silver and gold. He won the claim to a mine there in Telluride, so he and Robert are heading there soon to set up their operation.” Eunice looked at her bowl, then at Ben, but she wouldn’t meet Rayne or Lisbet’s eyes.

 

What am I doing? These people opened up their home to me, and here I am lying to them.

 

“Rayne, I don’t think you should pry into Eunice’s business. If she wants to tell us she will.” Lisbet’s tone was sharp.

 

“Lisbet, I was just makin’ conversation is all.”

 

“Oh no, please, she isn’t prying at all,” Eunice said quickly.

 

“Where are you originally from?” Rayne asked.

 

Eunice chuckled at the look she saw Lisbet flash Rayne. She remembered that look fondly from her childhood. It was the one her mother would give her when she was getting out of hand. She even gave something akin to that look to Harry from time to time.

 

“San Antonio actually, that’s where I met Harry,” Eunice replied.

 

“Lots of cattle out that way.” Rayne nodded.

 

“Yes, there are. Harry had actually thought of starting a cattle ranch at one time.”

 

“Oh? I take it by the fact that he is starting a mining operation that he didn’t, how come?” Rayne asked.

 

“Oh, he just found something that caught his interest more, I suppose,” Eunice said.

 

She thought about the real reason his cattle ranch never came to fruition. Mentally shaking herself from her thoughts, Eunice smiled. “This stew is so good. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your hospitality. I was looking at a dark barn, a biscuit, and some jerky otherwise.”

 

Lisbet gave a half smile and mumbled a thank you. Rayne reached over and wiped Ben’s mouth, “Okay pal, you’re done. You’ve started playin’ so come on, let’s get you cleaned up and get you calmed down for bed. What do ya say?”

 

“Tory mama. Tory peas.” Ben reached his chubby arms to Rayne.

 

“Well of course, I’ll read you a story. But let’s clean up first.” Rayne lifted up her son. “Sorry, when he gets like this it’s impossible to get him back to eating,” she apologized to their guest.

 

“It’s not a problem, really, I taught school for a while, so I know how kids can be,” Eunice smiled at the boy in Rayne’s arms.

 

“You’re a teacher?” Lisbet asked.

 

“Yes, I was. Then I met Harry, and well, he didn’t want me to continue, so I resigned and then he decided to go and get itchy feet and…well, here I am on my way out west.”

 

“Do you miss it?” she asked.

 

“Sometimes, I do. You get used to having little kids around, hearing their voices, the way they talk, the way they just accept people for how they are with no judgment.” She tried to stay in the present and not go to the place where she heard snippets of comments made about her or saw people turn to avoid her or speak behind their hands.

 

Lisbet couldn’t help but notice how Eunice withdrew and the look in her eyes that Lisbet clearly remembered from her own childhood. She wondered what it was that Eunice was remembering, what it was that she was running from. It doesn’t matter, who am I to judge? She knew the world was a cruel place if you didn’t behave or live a certain way. Take for example her and Rayne, she knew in the eyes of some people their love was wrong and they should be run out of town or hung from the nearest tree. She simply nodded. “Yes, they do. I know our lives were completely changed the moment Ben came to us.”

 

“Please, don’t think I’m prying, but it’s obvious you and Rayne aren’t sisters… Do you mind if I ask…” Eunice paused, not sure how to ask what she already suspected.

 

“Rayne and I live our life as a married couple. I’m hopin’ that doesn’t change your opinion of us,” Lisbet said in a defensive manner.

 

“It isn’t up to me to judge how others live their lives,” Eunice replied. “You said when Ben came into your lives… Ben isn’t Rayne’s son?”

 

“We are raisin’ him as ours, but he is her nephew. He was six months old when he came to live with us. It’s a long story. When the family showed up here, Ben’s mother had passed away, and his father wasn’t far behind. Jason died about twelve hours after he showed up,” Lisbet said, as she went about gathering their dishes.

 

“And he is what, about three years old?”

 

“Yes, feels like he’s always been a part of our lives. Rayne adores him, and he obviously adores her.” Lisbet smiled.

 

“And they both adore you,” Eunice commented, as she stood and started to help clean up. “How long have you and Rayne been… No, don’t answer that, I shouldn’t pry,” Eunice quickly said, as she saw Lisbet pause for a split second.

 

“You aren’t. Rayne and I don’t hide what we are, least not in our home, but we don’t flaunt it either. So when someone asks out of the blue like that, I’m caught by surprise. We’ve been together about three years. Most folks in town know about us, and help keep our secret with those that don’t.”

 

Eunice smiled as she thought about her time with Harry. Then the smile slowly faded. She loved him, and while she was happy with life, she sometimes just wished for a little more. What was wrong with wanting a home in one place? Not always feeling the need to explore different places and always running off. Just once, she would like to feel that Harry was happy just being with her.

 

“Are you all right?” Lisbet asked.

 

“Yeah, I’m just tired. Long few days, you know?”

 

“I’m sorry, I should have thought about that. Sit, you don’t have to help. Go sit by the fire and relax. I’ll bring you some coffee.”

 

Eunice nodded and smiled, then walked to the living area and sat on the sofa. Eunice could hear Rayne in the background as she told a story to Ben. As she listened, her eyes closed. It wasn’t long before she was asleep.

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