Happy 16 November, folks. The date doesn’t mean anything to you? Well, maybe it’s your birthday (happy birthday), or anniversary, or the day you managed to eat oysters without closing your eyes and not thinking about them sliding their way down your gullet all alive alive oh.
To me, 16 November means that the third book in my “Girl Meets Girl” series, Fenced-In Felix is here and available. That’s Felix above, on the left side of the cover, with her salt-and-pepper plait and serious face. And that’s her love-interest, Josie, on the right side with her wild hair and string of beads and big happy smile. And below is Josie’s horse, Flame, in an outback landscape. But is she Josie’s horse?
Like the previous two books in the series, Never-Tied Nora and Not-So-Straight Sue, Fenced-In Felix is a standalone novel that shares characters with the previous two books. So you don’t need to have read the previous books first, although of course I very much hope that you have or you will.
Felix is a story of outback Australia and the self-sufficient people who live there. It’s a story of rural life and friendships, horses, tourism, loving and losing, stepping outside of your comfort zone, campfire damper, quiet rides at dawn, snakes in the shower, love and trust, and love and sex.
Here’s the blurb and below that an excerpt:
Felix Jameson is working hard to get her outback hospitality business off the ground. Building cabins, leading trail rides and enticing tourists means she hasn’t much time for distractions—and that includes romance. But when she meets Josie, a drifter who picks up casual work as she goes, Felix is intrigued and attracted. Josie asks Felix to board her horse, Flame, and Felix is delighted. Not only can she use the extra money, but it means she will see a lot more of Josie. Felix finds Josie fits in well into her life, and for the solitary Felix there’s finally the possibility of romance. But there’s something suspicious about Flame, who bears an uncanny resemblance to a valuable stolen racehorse. Felix knows she is falling hard for Josie, but is Josie all she seems, or is she mixed up in shady dealings?
I had two horses to do to Josie’s one, so she finished first. She came over and rested her arms on the edge of Smoke’s stall.
“You’ve got plenty of space here. You could have half a dozen more horses.”
I bent to brush dust from Smoke’s foreleg. “Barn space, yes, but the land is poor. It barely supports the six I have now.”
“How many have you had in the past?”
“Nine was the maximum, back in the days when I took youngsters for breaking. But that was during the good years, when we had proper wet seasons.”
“Word is this year could see some good rains.”
“Let’s hope. Can never rely on it though. I’ve seen the land go for years without real rain, and I’ve seen it under a metre of flood water.”
I straightened. Josie leant on the door, fiddling with the thong on her hat.
“I want to ask you something,” she said. “Not sure what you’ll say.”
“Oh?” I tried to appear open. In truth, I had no idea what she wanted.
“I like it in Worrindi. The pub’s a good place to be. Nice people.” Her mouth crooked up at one corner. The motion was fascinating. “Believe me, that is not always the case.” Her fingers worried at the thong on the hat. “Anyway, I thought I’d stay around. A while. Maybe a lot longer, if it works out. I told you I have a horse?”
I nodded, my gaze on the restless movement of her fingers.
“I’d like to have her near. I was given her. Otherwise there’s no way I’d have bought a horse, not with my lifestyle. But she’s mine, and I’d like to have her somewhere close. Her name’s Flame.”
Flame. It conjured up a picture of a delicate, feisty horse, quick as lightning with movements of fire. But as tempting as the picture was, I knew I had to say no.
“She sounds like a beaut horse. But honestly, Josie, I don’t think I can have her here. I just don’t have the grazing. Most likely, I’m going to have to buy hay before long, and that’s very expensive.”
“I’ll pay for her agistment—I didn’t mean for you to keep her for nothing. I’ve thought about what I can afford.” She named a figure that was generous.
The money was tempting. With the extra, I could finish up the second cabin.
I shook my head. “That’s a good offer, but it’s more than you’d pay at other places. But I still don’t think I could do it if I have to buy hay.”
“If it comes to that, how about I purchase the hay for her?”
I ducked down to Smoke’s forelegs again to give myself time to think. The dollars marching through my head beat a compelling rhythm, but before I fell on Josie’s neck shrieking “yes!” I had to give this more thought.
“I’m a thirty-minute drive from Worrindi. It would cost you to drive out here, and you may not be able to come that often. I’m sure there is somewhere closer to town where you could keep her. If you want, I’ll ask—”
“No.” She leant forwards, and her face took on a strange intensity. “I want her to be here with you. If you’ll take her, that is. She’s special. I don’t want to trust her to just anyone. I can pay, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“It’s not. I trust you.” And I did. I wasn’t just saying the words. For all her nomadic ways, Josie seemed like someone I could rely on. Maybe I’d wake up one morning with a horse that didn’t belong to me and no way of contacting the owner and no money coming in—I’d heard of that happening to others—but I didn’t think so.
“I can give you a month up front. I’ll transfer it to your bank if you agree.”
It was a lot of money for someone earning minimum wage less board in a pub. Maybe she had money put aside.
“If you take her, I’ll know she’ll be well looked after. Cared for. So many places just throw a horse in a paddock and forget about it until the next bill’s due.” Her head ducked, and she glanced at me from under her hat. “And it would give me an excuse to come out here. To see you.”
It wasn’t fair of her to play the flirtation card with someone who was obviously interested.
I stood up again, with Smoke between us, and rested my hands on her withers. “Look, I’ll think about it, okay? I can’t give you an answer now. I need to think about grazing, hay, and things like that.” And about you wanting to see me again. “Will Flame be okay in with the others? I don’t think it will work if she has to be by herself.”
“I’m sure she will be. Thanks, Felix, for at least thinking about it.”
“I’ll let you know.”
She nodded, and with a quick smile, she walked off.
I watched her go, watched the sway of her backside under those mauve pants, and tried not to think about the fact that she wanted to spend time with me.
Fenced-In Felix is available now from Ylva Publishing. Watch out for the book from 30 November 2016 on Amazon and usual retailers.