Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Coyote's Woman
by Ann Vremontcover art by Bryan Keller
ISBN (13): 978-1-60521-059-9
Genre(s): Paranormal, Horror
Theme(s): Werewolves, Shunga
Length: Novella


Lucy Suther is a bartered woman who hates the sight of dust rising up on the road into the Double Nought Ranch. It accompanied her on her bound arrival and bore silent witness to her marriage to a smuggler of flesh and drugs. Now her husband is two months missing and hoped dead, she’s trapped on the remote ranch, and the coyote that killed off her chickens is growing bolder. So, when a sexy stranger claiming to be her brother-in-law drives in on a cloud of dust, she has to wonder -- will trusting him earn her a way off the Double Nought or an express ride to a moonlit grave?

Coyote’s WomanAnn VremontAll rights reserved.Copyright ©2008 Ann Vremont
This e-book file contains sexually explicit scenes and adult language which some may find offensive and which is not appropriate for a young audience. Changeling Press E-Books are for sale to adults, only, as defined by the laws of the country in which you made your purchase. Please store your files wisely, where they cannot be accessed by under-aged readers.
In the three years I’ve lived on the Double Nought Ranch, I’ve never welcomed the sight of dust rising up on the dirt road. Drugged and tied in the back of a truck, choking on dirt for twenty miles, dust was my first impression of the place and I knew then things would only get worse.
As Deacon Esrial prophesied upon leaving me with my new husband, I arrived in dust and I would leave as dust.
My new husband, Theo Suther, was not one of the saved. Neither, according to Deacon Esrial, was I. At twenty-one, I had not taken a husband from among the deacons of the Last Testament Church, though several had taken me. My screaming and kicking and the bruises and broken bones that accompanied my protests were bad for morale among the other young women. I was an apostate. I had been blessed with the Word and I rejected it.
For that reason, I was outcast from the Kingdom of the Last Testament. But Deacon Esrial didn’t believe in being wasteful. So he traded me to Theo for a little bit of Jesus -- a gallon Ziploc of ecstasy -- and left in a cloud of dust.
What did I do for three years on a ranch on the Arizona/Mexico border halfway between Nogales and Naco with no other living soul in sight, no identity and no family that would take me in even if they could find me in the first place? What did I do in a borderland already littered with the bodies of dead, unwilling women? I survived. I laid the fuck still because the beatings I got for being a dead log when Theo fucked me weren’t nearly as life threatening as the ones he gave me when I fought back.
I waited for the day the gun was nearby and his back was turned.
Not only was Theo hyper-vigilant about hiding his keys or placing his gun, but he also had a preternatural sense of danger. The weeks and months turned into years. I escaped a couple of times early on -- caught once by a dirty border agent who ran drugs with Theo. The other times, I only made it into the surrounding desert and earned myself a case of heat stroke.
Things started to change six months ago. Theo became erratic -- leaving in the middle of the night, running into the desert with his gun and keys but without bolting me down in the shed. Two months ago, he seemed to completely break down, running in a wild rage through the house before he flew out the front door and into the night, taking only his keys and cell phone with him. So now I had a shotgun, plenty of shells, a house and shed stocked for the apocalypse and a car with no keys.
Oh, yeah, and dust rising up on the horizon with no time to run for one of the covered pits surrounding the house.
Shielding my eyes against the sun, I spotted a beat up Chevy truck -- probably white but showing beige as it rumbled over the dirt road. I stepped onto the patio with the shotgun cradled in my arm. The truck stopped in front of the house with a kick of dirt and gravel. The man who got out was a head taller than the top of his pick-up cab -- probably the tallest man I’d seen in real life. He had on jeans, hiking boots and a dirty white t-shirt. Tanned skin showed where the tight clothes didn’t cover him and sunglasses masked his eyes.
Let me say it right now -- I’m not dead, just badly damaged. There had been boys my own age within the confines of the Kingdom. My body had responded like any girl’s would. I even made out a few times until we were discovered and punished -- the boy deemed lost and expelled from the compound. I, on the other hand, had been beaten and scoured, re-baptized in an effort to save me. At least the deacons called it a baptism. The TV news shows piped in via Theo’s satellite called it waterboarding.
So, yeah… not dead, just damaged. My awareness of the stranger’s good looks -- the hard, muscled body, chiseled jaw and firm lips, the aura of mystery and sensuality the sunglasses added -- was more than peripheral. But my knowledge that there were no white knights outside of Hollywood was complete. Anyone setting foot on Double Nought was a danger to me until proven otherwise, and I kept the shotgun aimed in the stranger’s general direction as he approached.
Running my hand over the cold steel barrel, I adopted my best tough bitch pose and gestured at the Chevy. “Haul your ass back to the truck and move on, Mister.”
He smiled at that and kept on walking, pushing the shades up as he stepped onto the front patio. Five feet from the end of the barrel, he stopped and hooked his thumbs into the front pocket of his jeans. “Theo home?”
With the sunglasses up, I could see that his irises were a Bisbee blue, the same color as the turquoise they pulled out of the ground around here, and laced with black and a hint of danger as he stared at me. His hair was black, too, and kept long enough to curl around his neck. A pale white scar, stark against the deep tan, ran along his left cheek, starting just below the dark fringe of eyelashes and cutting down to the square jaw. Straight white teeth and the devil’s grin.
They’d warned us about men like this in the Kingdom -- good-looking, easy-going -- in short, everything the deacons weren’t. It wasn’t the deacons’ warnings that worried me, but the network of black that spread through the irises. I’d seen that same veined pattern along the irises before, with Theo’s coppery gaze and in some old pictures boxed out in the shed, the name on the back scratched out. Whoever this man was, those eyes told me he was a blood relative to Theo.
I took a step back and raised the shotgun. “Push off!”
There was no fear in this one. He stepped closer, straight up to me until the barrel of the shotgun was pressed against his flesh. “You must be Theo’s, what, wife? Girlfriend? I’m Shane -- his brother.”
I tightened my grip on the shotgun, worried that he’d try to take it from me, as close as he was now. “I don’t give a fuck who you are. Theo’s not here, and you’re not welcome.”
Shane shoved his hands deeper into his pockets. “I’ll wait.”


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