KC Hall loves her family, her small East Texas town, and her best friend, Emma Reynolds. All of that takes a backseat when her lover beckons. Lonnie is blond, beautiful, and willing. She’s also married and a lifelong friend of KC’s mama.

KC knows the affair is a bad idea, but she just can’t help herself. When presented with the lush landscape of Lonnie’s body, KC subscribes to the philosophy of orgasm first, think later.” Unfortunately, a secret that big is impossible to keep in a close-knit community where everybody knows everybody else’s business. The scandal would hurt her entire family.

Emma is KC’s exception, the one woman she loves enough to not have sex with. When Emma confesses that she’s loved KC since high school, KC is terrified. One wrong move and she could lose Emma completely.

Is she willing to let her family pay the price for her good time? Or will she turn to Emma to discover the true meaning of love and devotion?

“What kept you?” Emma whispered in KC’s ear, and Lonnie’s eyes narrowed. She might well be married, but that didn’t mean she’d tolerate KC playing around with other women, especially not in the house of the Lord. Never mind trying to convince Lonnie that she and Emma were just friends.
“I got caught up at home.” It was the closest to the truth that KC was willing to provide at the moment. She might, at some point, give in and tell Emma all about Lonnie, but today wasn’t that day.
“Your mama saw you. And Mrs. Truvall looks ready to skin you alive.” Emma held up her hymnal to share with KC. She’d already turned to the appropriate selection. Not that either of them needed it. They’d been singing along to the same hymns forever and joined in right on cue.
They sang about fire in the blood, a recurring theme that their pastor liked to impress upon the congregation. Blood, in all its crimson glory, purified, redeemed, and tasted good when enjoyed with a small wafer cracker. That last bit was KC’s own interpretation of communion, formulated when she was too little to partake but old enough to know that her older sister got a snack during church and she didn’t.
KC sang along, hoping to appear pious even though her thoughts, and the ache between her legs, were far from that. The only fire in her blood was the leftover excitement from her encounter with Lonnie that morning, an unfulfilled promise with no hope of finding resolution any time soon.
The choir concluded their song and the pastor took over, continuing the message of redeeming fire that could and would save her from eternal hellfire if only she’d spend her days walking with Jesus. KC suspected their choir director and preacher of coordinating their efforts, but they both swore the Lord spoke to them independently, resulting in the cooperative effect. As yet, the Lord hadn’t graced KC with a two-way conversation, but she also hadn’t applied herself to His service. She supposed His silence was fair.
“Come with me next weekend.” Emma barely whispered the words, her mouth so close her breath tickled KC’s ear. Her frustrated libido didn’t need this kind of encouragement in the middle of a sermon.
KC wished they were still singing. At least then she’d be able to tip the songbook up in front of her mouth when she responded. “Where?”
“Austin.” Emma had designs on moving away from Fairmont to a place where minds were a little more open and gossiping mouths a little more closed. She’d been on the receiving end one too many times to appreciate the local grapevine. Why didn’t Emma look toward California, like LA, where anything went, or San Francisco, where gay was practically required? Or maybe the Northwest, like Seattle or Portland, where weird was normal, with its free-flowing stream of marijuana smoke? Or even east to New Orleans, where morality took a backseat to twenty-four-hour, all-day, everyday debauchery. With the exception of her four years devoted to higher education at UNLV, Emma’s dreams had never stretched past the Texas border, so Austin was her only real choice.
KC loved Austin, with its burgeoning music scene and influx of liberal idealism. “I’m not sure,” she said. She and Lonnie were sort of supposed to have plans. Maybe. If Lonnie could get away. “I’ll let you know?”
Emma gazed at her, her face tilted, eyes thoughtful. This wasn’t the first time KC had put her off, and Emma was obviously trying to decide if she should call KC on it. KC hoped she decided against it.
The pastor banged his hand against the pulpit, his open palm a gunshot against the lectern. It ricocheted through the church, bouncing off stained glass, brick, and drywall with a force like thunder. KC sat up straight, focusing her eyes front. He had her attention. She leaned forward slightly to see what he intended to do with it.
“Make your commitment to God. Right here, right now, on this Sunday morning.” The choir started a low, encouraging hum behind him. “God is patient. He loves you, and He is ready for you to come home to Him.”
People stood, arms raised in salutation to the Lord. KC waffled on joining them. Power in the blood she wasn’t too sure about, but their preacher was a convincing motivational speaker. And when his gaze briefly landed on her, she gathered herself to stand. Emma’s hand on her arm stopped her and the pastor’s eyes moved to the next person.
“What are you doing?” Emma said, her voice too loud to be considered a whisper.
And she was right to question KC. All too often, in many different settings, she got wrapped up in the excitement of the moment and forgot herself. The only thing she ever truly worshipped was the glory of a naked woman wrapped around her fingers. Emma was a good friend to remind her.
“Nothing.” KC smiled at her mama. Even if she hadn’t heard Emma across the church, she always had one eye on each of her children. By KC’s math, her mama had at least three eyes, and the count grew as her children started giving her grandchildren. She’d no doubt picked up on the commotion.
“I’m okay now.” KC liked that she got swept away, like all true romantics. She just wasn’t always sure how to explain her reaction to other people. Emma understood without KC having to break it down.
The preacher concluded his sermon, and the choir resumed their singing. KC and Emma stood to sing along. She was allowed to take to her feet now as the requisite Sunday-morning church service drew to an end with the final song selection. No one would think she was declaring her devotion, so she raised her voice with gusto.
She loved to sing. Her voice did amazing things without any encouragement from her. Her mama called it a gift. The choir director called it a squandered gift because she refused to join the choir and use it to exalt the glory of God. KC would happily sing any song he wanted so long as he didn’t insist on placing her on the risers between her mother and Lonnie. And that’s precisely where she’d end up, stacked between two women she wanted desperately to please. No doubt she’d forget herself and, in a moment of rapturous joy she’d take liberties with Lonnie not meant to be taken in a church or in front of her mama.
No, KC belonged safely in the congregation, next to Emma, where she could sing to her heart’s content without risk of town-wide scandal.
With the service concluded, KC ushered Emma out the side door before the pastor could set up sentry at the exits. She needed to move her car and couldn’t afford the delay of after-church niceties.
Emma lit a cigarette as soon as she cleared the landscaping. She didn’t smoke often—only when stressed or intoxicated. KC hadn’t noticed signs of the latter during the service so reckoned church did what church always did to Emma—stressed her out.
Emma was a woman out of time with her circumstances. She looked as though someone had clipped her out of a fashion magazine and dropped her in the middle of Texas. Not that Emma had any clue how devastatingly beautiful she was. If asked, she’d say she was passable. In truth, she made most folks, including KC, forget how to breathe.
“You worry too much.” KC paused to give Emma a brief hug. God forbid the day she couldn’t spare enough time to comfort her best friend. Without the occasional intervening hug, Emma’s smoking would rival a factory smokestack.
“I'm fine, KC.” Emma held her cigarette away from KC’s body, resulting in an awkward one-armed hug.
KC wanted to maintain contact for a little longer and caught Emma’s free hand before she could retract it completely. She held it loosely as they crossed the parking lot. Emma stiffened slightly, but didn't pull away. She did, however, redouble her efforts to cloud the air. KC wasn’t at all sure what was bothering Emma, and since Emma wasn’t forthcoming, KC guessed.
“You’re giving those guys too much credit. They don’t know what happens in the afterlife any more than you do. Hell, they don’t even know for sure if there is an afterlife." KC leaned against the hood of her car, still holding Emma’s hand. She wasn’t in such a hurry to move the Accord now, since Emma was allowing physical contact in a potentially public place. The possible scandal of two girls in love in small town Texas, true or not, kept Emma upright and contained. She didn't hold hands and she didn't kiss. Hell, she didn't even allow her glance to linger too long in places the gentry deemed it shouldn't. Emma dated plenty, but did so privately to avoid speculation. KC was being far too bold and forward and she knew it. But this was Emma, her best friend. And if the town folks were still looking for a lesbian scandal from the two of them, then KC couldn't help them. She'd resigned herself to Emma only ever seeing her as a friend, nothing more. The rest of town would eventually pick up on that.
Besides, the parking lot was still empty of human traffic. The other worshipers were no doubt caught up in the bottleneck of farewell wishes at the exit.
“Don’t be crazy, KC. I’m not worried about the Eternal Hereafter. I have enough to keep me busy here on the mortal plane.” Emma flicked her burned-down Camel menthol onto the blacktop and stomped it out while reaching for her pack. She slipped her hand out of KC’s and lit another cigarette.
“If you’d talk to me, maybe you wouldn’t need to chain-smoke half a pack in the church parking lot.” KC gestured at the fresh cigarette, Emma’s lighter poised with the flame a breath away from the tobacco tip.
She glared at KC and touched the flame home while inhaling deeply. “These calm my nerves.” She blew a black stream up and away from KC’s face. “You should try it some time. Keep you from making an ass out of yourself in the middle of church.”
KC laughed. “You worry enough about that for both of us. If you weren’t there, I’d declare my devotion for the moment and my mama would praise Jesus that I’d changed my wicked ways.” And KC would be okay with that. She didn’t mind chasing her impulses wherever they led.
Emma grunted and took another drag.
“Are you coming over for dinner?”
Emma cocked her head to the side, considering KC’s question, then countered with one of her own. “Who’ll be there besides family?”
KC hesitated. Emma was smart. The less she mentioned Lonnie, the better. Still, best not let Emma catch her leaving stuff out, either. “The Truvalls. You should come.”
“I’ll meet up with you later.” Emma surveyed the parking lot and spotted the choir director’s wife at the same time as KC. “Best get going.” She turned toward her own car.
“Emma?” KC paused, one leg inside the open driver’s side door. “I love you, okay?”
Emma took a breath, one not laden with blue-gray tobacco smoke, held it for a moment, then released it in a whoosh. “Yeah, I know.” She climbed inside her car, leaving KC talking to no one.

It was time to get home.


Author Bio:
 Jove Belle was born and raised against a backdrop of orchards and potato fields. The youngest of four children, she was raised in a conservative, Christian home and began asking why at a very young age, much to the consternation of her mother and grandmother. At the customary age of eighteen, she fled southern Idaho in pursuit of broader minds and fewer traffic jams involving the local livestock. The road didn’t end in Portland, Oregon, but there were many confusing freeway interchanges that a girl from the sticks was ill-prepared to deal with. As a result, she has lived in the Portland metro area for over fifteen years and still can’t figure out how she manages to spend so much time in traffic when there’s not a stray sheep or cow in sight.

She lives with her partner of twelve years. Between them they share three children, two dogs, two cats, two mortgage payments, one sedan, and one requisite dyke pickup truck. One day she hopes to live in a house that doesn’t generate a never ending honey-do list.

Incidentally, she never stopped asking why, but did expand her arsenal of questions to include who, what, when, where and, most important of all, how. In those questions, a story is born.

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