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Copyright © 2012
“She slammed the door in my face!”
Finn Taylor had not long arrived in the town of Frontier—the most far-flung town on the colony planet of Duoterra—and he was stabling his horse when he overheard a man talking just outside the building.
“And my nose got broken! Well, it felt like it did.”
Stopping what he was doing, Finn turned his head to listen further, and his fringe flopped over his eyes. He cursed. His fair, curly hair was the bane of his life.
Impatiently brushing the hair away he concentrated on the voice which sounded like that of a young man, and he held back a chuckle, wondering who they were referring to and what the man had done to have the door shoved at him that violently.
“God, that must have hurt. But why would she do that?” Someone else spoke this time, sounding astonished at the turn of events.
“Emily declared that she’d had enough of being the town ‘whore,’” the former person continued, dropping his voice on the last word.
That surprised Finn so much that he stumbled into his horse, who turned her head and snorted at him. Whoever this “Emily” was, she had better be careful, Finn thought. Prostitution was only allowed in the state-licensed brothel in the capital, Eden. Even those women were usually only there because they had been convicted of a crime or widowed without a home and job. Although Finn also knew one or two women who had chosen that profession to avoid being forced into a marriage. He winced. There must be a better way of life, surely!
“I’ve never known her to say no before,” responded the second guy. “She’s always been happy to have sex with any man, thank God. With the laws the way they are these days that insist that unmarried women have to marry by the age of twenty-three, we’d never get any fun.”
Finn silently sniggered at the young man’s frustrated comment and leaned back against the wall. The situation regarding the lack of women was something Finn had become aware of in his travels around the continent. He worked as a travelling musician and knew of the planet’s problem with a dearth of women, so many of them dying in childbirth or illness that it had resulted in them becoming something of a commodity. In some ways he admired his ancestors who had left Earth for a new—and hopefully cleaner—life on a new planet. But he was sure they hadn’t reckoned on how hard life could be, particularly when one had to start from scratch, making, growing, reaping all the things that people took for granted like clothes, food, pottery, and so on, and at the same time cope with a lack of medical resources, ones that they had been used to on Earth.
“We should really think about finding ourselves a wife, particularly if Emily is turning cold on us.”
“Well, there is Sandra.”
“Too young. She’s only fifteen. We’d have to wait three years minimum, and then there is no guarantee that she would choose either of us, not with so many other guys also looking for girls.”
There was a pause. Finn mentally requested that they didn’t stop. Their conversation was much too intriguing, although what he really wanted them to talk about was this fascinating woman called Emily.
“Occasionally there’s a new female, like that girl who came to town a couple of years ago, Brianna. You know, the one who married the Hollis brothers.” This was the second man again, who had been the one to suggest “Sandra” a few moments ago. He sounded more upbeat than his friend who’d had the door slammed in his face.
“Oh yeah. Like that’s going to happen again in a remote place like Frontier. So we are back to square one. There aren’t any young, single women, so we are going to have to consider the widowed women.”
“What? The mayor’s elderly sister?”
There followed a moment of hilarity between the two men, and Finn smiled. He had been in Frontier in the north only once before since he generally traveled around the towns and homesteads in the south of the continent, and Frontier was too remote to make it worth his while. Although this continent was inhabited with various homesteads, there were only six towns as the planet had been settled just over sixty years ago. The other two continents remained free of human habitation.
His home, if it could be called that, was a marine cottage on the south shore, but he had left there a long time ago when his father wanted him to become a fisherman like himself, being the only one of the three sons to survive to adulthood. His mother had known it was a job in which Finn wasn’t interested in the slightest, but she died when he was twenty. Shortly after, he had walked out. His mother had been the only person who had supported his creative aspirations, and as she was no longer alive, it wasn’t hard to leave. The only times he went back was to visit the nearest town, unimaginatively called The Coast, to play at dances, and his father had never turned up, although Finn had heard from those who knew him that his father was alive, but aging.
Finn had become aware of the mayor of Frontier and his family when his travels had brought him to the distant town to play at the wedding of the mayor’s daughter about three years ago. The “elderly sister” in question was in her seventies and was as forthright as her brother, much to the mayor’s annoyance.
He smiled, remembering how feisty the old lady was. It was good to have some strong women. That way the male dominance over women on the planet might be broken. Besides which, Finn rather liked feisty women himself.
Suddenly he recalled exactly who Emily was—the owner of the town’s bar. That was amazing in itself as few women had their own businesses, but he’d heard that Emily was a very determined and independent woman whose late husband had died several years earlier. Finn made a face, feeling rather sorry that Emily was out of the equation now as he’d missed her when he had been in town for the wedding as she’d been away, but he did rather fancy a romp with her if all the rumors about her were correct!
“Okay, that leaves the schoolmistress.” This was the second man again, who was clearly trying his best to suggest suitable women to his friend and not getting very far, considering the other’s responses.
“You have to be kidding! Old virgin pants! Even her husband wouldn’t visit her bed if the rumors are correct.”
“So who else is there?”
“Hey now. Emily’s a widow. She might be getting on a bit, but I’d marry her.”
“No go. You know she’s firmly declared on several occasions that she will never marry again. Hell, she even decked Curt Hollis a few years ago when he suggested it.”
Finn had had enough and moved away from the wall, starting out of the stable in the direction of the bar. All the conversation about Emily was not only causing him to be thirsty but also making him eager to see if she was there this time and, if she was, whether he could get further than these immature guys. Of course, he would have been heading there anyway, but the thought of finally seeing this woman made him quicken his steps.
He couldn’t resist a passing comment to the young men who were astonished when he suddenly appeared. “Afternoon, boys. It’s going to be a great dance tonight. Know any girls?”
Chuckling at their startled mutterings, he tried to recall everything he’d heard about Emily as he made his way across the street into the bar. Frontier, as the name suggested, was on the edges of the wild region and was still a pretty small town with just one long street with a few buildings and houses on either side, so it didn’t take long.
Actually he found he couldn’t remember much about her, other than the fact that she had a reputation for being something of a good-natured tart.
Standing in the doorway, his gaze instantly went to the woman behind the counter. He guessed she was in her midforties. As he was thirty-four himself she didn’t seem overly old to him. Anyhow, he liked older women. She was a brunette, but with red tones in her hair, which was tied back at her neck.
However, it was her face that he really noticed as it lit up the place. She had a wonderful smile and beamed cheerfully at the people she was serving. Although she seemed to have two male assistants, most people gathered around her end of the bar, all clamoring for her attention.
“Hey, Emily. How about a kiss?” requested one young man leaning forward, his lips puckered in anticipation.
Finn grinned at the look of sarcasm she gave the crowd. She then laughed as she picked up a mug of ale and tipped it over the impudent pup. “When you stop wearing nappies, George!”
The whole crowd around her burst out laughing as the hapless George staggered back from the counter, dripping wet, wailing, “Emily!” He then moved past Finn to exit the building, presumably to go and put some dry clothes on—it had been a full mug.
As Finn enjoyed watching the spectacle, he reflected on Emily’s voice, which had been deep and husky. Being a singer, Finn always listened to people’s voices initially as it told him a lot about them. He could tell that Emily was someone who talked a lot and that her voice carried well across the room, probably necessary for running a busy bar. He wondered if she did any singing. Her tone resonated with a rich timbre.
He was thinking about the possibilities of performing with her and was startled when she suddenly called over to him, not conscious that she had noticed him standing there.
“Are you coming in, stranger?” She then spoke to those surrounding her, although he heard every word—as she clearly intended. “Maybe he’s applying for the job of doorman? With you lot coming in and out all day, I need one.” Her gray eyes sparkled with merriment as she turned her head to stare boldly at him, a brazen smile on her face.
Grinning back, he told her, “I’m looking for Emily.”
The crowd suddenly moved away as they turned to look at him, and Finn could see her better, his gaze dropping down to her body. Her blouse was plain-white, but had lace around the edges and was unbuttoned to midchest, showing a generous amount of her cleavage. This woman was not only voluptuous, she wasn’t afraid to show it off.
Oh, I’m going to like this woman!