Like most women in dead-end relationships, Holly Markham was used to finding substitutes for love. Like chocolate. Fun times with good friends. Throwing herself into her work as a mathematician. But throwing herself into the arms of a leather-clad stranger was never on her list. Even when she does exactly that, she’s stunned when the other woman tells her there can be no repeats, no contact, never again.
Reyna Putnam has lived by the rules of her politically ambitious father for years. Increasingly anguished by the work she does at his behest, trysts with women like Holly are all that keep her sane. She tries to banish the memory of Holly as she has so many other women because nothing has changed. She’s trapped in a cage not of her own making.
Holly has no intention of living in the shadows, and sets out to uncover the secrets of her own past hoping they will lead her back to the mysterious Reyna and some kind of future.
Inspired by Dick Cheney.
You read that right. In 1999, watching Dick Cheney mealy-mouth his way around whether gays should have equal civil rights, when everyone knew his daughter was lesbian, made me think, “What would it feel like to be the lesbian daughter of that kind of politically avaricious man and know that he will never lift a finger to help you get equal rights?” And so this story was born.
Fans of this book won’t want to miss the follow-up short story “Reconciliation” in Frosting on the Cake 2: Second Helpings.
- Reader Comments about Substitute for Love “…Genuine characters with a spellbinding plot!” – Jeanne “I am in utter awe of how KK weaves mathematical concepts in Holly’s internal dialogue to illustrate the ...
- Substitute for Love at Womyn’s Words I’ve never been big on reading romance novels, which is why I’m so surprised to come to the revelation that I’m hooked on Karin Kallmaker’s ...
- Substitute for Love at the Lesbian Review Top 10 Lesbian Romances list
From Chapter Five
Tank had found the motorcycle for her, refurbished it and then registered it in his own name, though she would be the only rider. It was a minor informational fraud, Reyna had rationalized. He chattered about the idiosyncrasies of Yamaha bikes and 750 cc’s, but Reyna only saw the silver name melded into the black body: Virago.
Tonight, it fit.
Borrowed leather gloves and a black helmet transformed her from a research and media specialist for conservative causes to unrestrained biker chick. It felt wonderful.
She realized Tank was waiting for some acknowledgment. “She’s beautiful,” she said belatedly, but with feeling. The engine purred so cool and clean she didn’t even have to raise her voice. Kim had taught her to ride. Her father had never noticed her driver’s license also allowed her to ride motorcycles, or he would have surely told her to give it up. The link between bike and dyke was too close.
Cash had been all Tony needed to fix Reyna up with something—he just wanted to see another beautiful bike on the road. He hadn’t asked many questions. He was still enough of an anarchist to like the secrecy and the tax-free income. She had plenty of money of her own. The Institute or her father paid for almost all her expenses. Her after-tax income was embarrassing, and yet it couldn’t begin to cover the medical bills that mounted up with each of her mother’s dialysis treatments and trips to the ICU. What she had saved up so far would get them about eight months before there was nothing left. But she kept saving and investing because sooner or later, money would mean independence.
She withdrew hundreds of dollars in cash a month but spent little of it. The rest was squirreled away in her apartment for things she wanted to buy with no way for her father to find out—like a motorcycle, or a motel room for a few hours.
She parted from Tank with a wave. With the thrill that only a completely forbidden activity could bring, she headed for the open road, feeling for the first time in years that eyes were not on her every move.
For the next thirty minutes, just riding was enough. She almost felt like she could take the bike back and it would be enough to dance around the black hole and know she wouldn’t fall in. She could smile tomorrow, cooperate, listen to clients who described gays as pedophiles, lesbians as man-haters, feminists as Nazis, the NAACP as radicals, amen, world without end. She could help them write their speeches, twist research to suit their arguments, find new ways to present hate disguised as morality. It was what the Putnam Institute did, and she was good at it, a real chip off the old block.
It was from an outraged male client that she had learned about the monthly ladies’ night at the nearest gay bar. Wasn’t it outrageous that women who ought to be ashamed of themselves would parade around as if they had a right, dance to that disgusting music, cruise for perverted sex, and so close to where they lived? Reyna’s heightened perception had detected the undercurrent of salacious arousal at the idea. Coping with her own revulsion, she had almost missed what the information could mean to her.
She cycled a cloverleaf to head west on the 405, leaning hard into the turn as the wind billowed her jacket open. The air was like ice but it made her feel even more alive. Orange County was the conservative center of California politics, and some neighborhoods were little better than restricted communities. The Putnam Institute was located in the county’s political heart, Irvine, and nestled deep in Bonita Canyon, a few miles from the University of California campus.
She left it all behind, whipped past the John Wayne Airport, then a short jaunt north to the border zone between Costa Mesa and Santa Ana. The bike didn’t want to slow down, but she followed the route she had memorized. Another generic L.A. boulevard gave way to a still busy strip where restaurants were only now beginning to close their doors. At the far end she turned into a parking lot choked with cars.
She cruised slowly past the front door to Jack’s. A small sign indeed proclaimed it Ladies’ Night. Even over the vibration of the bike she could feel the bumping pulse of the music inside. She eased into a spot between the nose of a Subaru SUV and the wall of the club. With the engine off the music was even more pronounced. Above that she heard the babble of women’s voices.
It hurt to be so close and not be part of it. She kept her helmet on until she was inside, then checked it, the gloves and her jacket with a pouty, bored blonde. The ten-dollar bill she tithed to the doorkeeper trembled in her shaking hand.
She stepped inside and let Madonna carry her to the dance floor where it was dark and no one cared that she was dancing alone.
She never learned the woman’s name. She didn’t have to know. It was better that way. What she didn’t know her father would never learn. It was just for tonight, just for an hour, maybe two.
Her teeth felt sharp on Reyna’s throat. From a mutual recognition on the dance floor they had moved to the outdoor patio, which was screened from the outside world by thick shrubs, and dark enough to ignore what other couples were doing. She heard a gasp nearby, knew what it meant and wanted to feel that gasp herself, to take and be taken. She moaned and unbuttoned her blouse, eager to be naked, to be skin to skin with this stranger. She was a woman and that was all that mattered.
“We’re going to get tossed if you show any more skin,” the woman murmured. “But if you want to show it, we could get more involved in my pickup—it’s parked outside.”
In her father’s world it was sordid, but how could it be to her? She had to hide, lie, disguise herself to be here, and her father’s world drove her to those extremities. That she could find any kind of bliss, no matter how short-lived, under these circumstances was a matter of solace. If this was all there could be, she would survive on it. The mattress that occupied the entire bed of the pickup was meant for just this purpose, as were the thick curtains that darkened the windows of the enclosing shell. Privacy, anonymity—it was what she had come there for, and it felt like salvation.
How could anyone give this up? God had given her the capacity to love this, to share this intimate act with another woman. Wouldn’t turning her back on it be hubris? Who was she to deny how God had made her?
Ins Licht der Liebe
Nach UNVERGESSEN nun der neue Roman der „Queen of Lesbian Romance“ – sinnlich, sexy, spannungsreich:
INS LICHT DER LIEBE … Aus heiterem Himmel steht Holly Markhams Leben Kopf: Als sie sich mit einer gemobbten Kollegin solidarisch erklärt, wird sie gefeuert. Clay, ihr Lebensgefährte, findet ihr Verhalten unüberlegt und unklug. Holly fällt aus allen Wolken. Sie gerät ins Nachdenken. Ihren Job als Versicherungsmathematikerin war sie ohnehin leid. Und Clay im Grunde auch.
Holly beschließt, ihren Master in Mathematik zu machen und der wachsenden Faszination nachzugehen, die sie für Frauen empfindet. Und eines Abends begegnet ihr in einer Bar die schöne, geheimnisvolle Reyna …– Krug and Schadenberg More