October's Promise, A Lesbian Romance Novel by Marianne Garver

  She started to shake her head. "Wait a minute. That's a beer, right? Was that the one with the witches?" She'd seen that ad. Some crowded bar with a guy too involved in the hockey game playing on the television to notice the bored look on his girlfriend's face or give more than a distracted nod when she excused herself from the table. She walked through a door marked "Ladies" but instead of the bathroom you were expecting, the door opened onto a moonlit clearing in the woods where three women in slinky black outfits stood around a cauldron with thick curls of mist pouring over the edge. The witch in the middle-a blonde, she remembered, only because she'd never really been partial to blondes but this one was exceptionally hot-said, "Join us, sister" in that smoke and whiskey kind of voice that had a way of going straight to your crotch, and then reached into the caldron and pulled out a tray holding bottles of beer. By the end of the commercial, all the guys in the bar were looking around like a bunch of dumb asses, having finally noticed that all their dates were gone, and then you saw them the women in the clearing, dancing and laughing and holding bottles of Salem's Brew. 

  "Man, I loved that commercial," she said, trying to think back to when she might have seen it. It must have been a few years ago when a cohort from her days in the Army had organized a little reunion group to meet in Provincetown during the women's festival. 

  "What was that line at the end? Say goodbye to the ordinary and-" 

  "Discover the magic taste of Salem's Brew," they finished together. 

  "Wow. So that was one of yours, huh?" 

  "Well, I can't take all the credit," said Libby, but her modest smile suggested she could take a good bit of it. 

  Grinning in appreciation, she mentally checked off another box in the We Are Family probability column. She could be wrong, but it was hard to imagine anyone other than a lesbian coming up with that one. "You know, I think that was the only time I've seen a beer commercial aimed specifically at, uh, women." God, had she really just used "women" as a euphemism for "lesbians"? 

  "Well, it's what the client wanted." 

  "Is it still around?" 

  "The beer, not the commercial. They've got a microbrewery in, well, Salem. These two women started it in their garage and it kind of took off with the local crowd. They were hoping to expand their market a little. Unfortunately they had a hard time finding local stations that would run the ad, and most of the ones that did pulled it when they started getting complaints, either from nut cases who thought they were actually promoting witchcraft or people who thought the sub-text wasn't quite subtle enough." 

  That would have been the perfect opening to pursue the subject, but just then they passed the sign for Turtle Cove. "I think you want to take this right coming up here." 

  A two-lane road split the trees to take them on a winding descent into Turtle Cove. The snow-white spires of at least three churches rose up along the main street. An expanse of lush green around an oversized gazebo was obviously a park, while playground equipment and a baseball diamond suggested that a trim brick building was an elementary school. 

  She noticed that the car was slowing, but a glance at Libby told her the other woman was just admiring the view. "First time here?" she guessed. 

  "I was here once, but it was a long time ago." 

  She watched Libby's eyes scanning the horizon as if looking for something. 

  "There should be a lake around here somewhere..." 

  "Yeah, Lake Tolba. It's back that way," said Quinn, stabbing a thumb over her shoulder. She'd been camping there for the past few days. "Are you going to be staying out there?" 

  "No," said Libby as she resumed their descent into town. "But I think that's where my family stayed when I was a kid. I'll probably take a drive out there before I leave town." 

  Quinn spotted a service station up ahead on the right. "You can just drop me off over there," she said, gesturing. 

  "Do you want me to wait?" Libby asked. "Just in case they can't help you. You don't want to be walking all over town looking for another service station." 

  Amused by the suggestion, she aimed a deliberate glance down the short length of the town's main street. "Oh yeah. Like that could take a whole ten minutes." 

  "Sorry," said Libby with a wry smile. "Guess I'm used to thinking on a slightly larger scale." 

  "I'm sure this one will be fine. Thanks for the offer, though." She stroked a hand over the sleeping dog's head, and then patted him on the rump to roust him. "And for the ride," she added as she got out of the car and turned to settle the waking dog onto the seat she'd just vacated. "You're a life saver." 

  "What are you doing?" said Libby. 

  Quinn stared at her blankly. "What do you mean?" 

  "Aren't you going to take him with you?" 

  Confused, she looked down at the dog. "Why would I take your dog?" 

  "He's not my dog, he's your dog," said Libby, looking at her like she was the one who was nuts. 

  And this, she reminded herself, is why you never accept rides from strangers. "He was in your car when you stopped to pick me up," she pointed out carefully. 

  "But-he knew you. You knew him. You called him by name, for God's sake!" 

  That's what this was all about? "It's on his tag," she pointed out. When Libby's gaze dropped toward the animal in her passenger seat, she took a quick step back away from the car. 

  "But don't you-no, don't-just…will you wait," Libby said, fumbling with her seatbelt. "You said he'd wandered off last night, remember?" 

"Yeah. Same way he wandered in last night. I'd never seen him before that. Sorry," she said before she closed the door, but she was looking at the dog when she said it.