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i

Wordfest (Calgary)

The biggest story on the Calgary Herald ’s entertainment section that day was accompanied by a page-wide photograph of three people. A man with dark skin and closely cropped hair, the muscles of folded arms stretching the sleeves of his green crew sweater. Another man, with a distinctive moustache, hair slicked back, wearing a worn denim jacket over a crisp white shirt. And standing between them was the woman in the leather jacket, dark brown hair cascading down her shoulders, smirking at the camera.

The piece was entitled Homegrown stars headlining Wordfest . Underneath the photograph, the caption read: Xavier Dolls (35), Wynonna Earp (34), and John Henry Holliday (40) are Canada’s very own literary brat pack .

Waverly snorted. First of all, nobody headlined a book festival, not in Calgary anyway. It wasn’t Coachella. Second of all, ‘literary brat pack’ was a stupid term coined to refer to the middle-class coastal Americans who wrote about middle-class coastal American problems. Xavier Dolls, Wynonna Earp, and John Henry Holliday were not coastal Americans. Journalists writing about writers could do with wider vocabularies and more active imaginations.

“Oh good, you’re up.”

Waverly lowered the newspaper to see Wynonna, in the flesh, emerging from her room, looking significantly less polished than her photo op counterpart. “Good morning.” Waverly rotated the newspaper so it was facing her sister. “See the puff piece?”

“It’s publicity ,” Wynonna said. “You think it’s silly, but have you ever seen that many nice things written about me?”

Waverly skimmed the piece. There were plenty of glowing words about her sister. “You’re right. It’s kinda awesome,” she admitted.

“You want to order room service?” Wynonna asked. “The car is picking us up at eleven.”

They had spent their first night in a suite in one of Calgary’s best hotels. Wordfest’s organisers had put up their most prominent authors and guests there. Wynonna insisted on paying for her accommodation herself, so that she could get a two-room suite. It was Wynonna’s busiest Wordfest yet, fresh from the release of her latest novel. On the Wordfest programme, she was listed under the “Ones to Watch”, along with Xavier Dolls and John Henry Holliday. She was speaking on several panels, doing a reading and Q&A to a sold out crowd, and her presence was expected at many of the evening parties.

And Waverly? She was just along for the ride.

***

There was no doubt that Wynonna’s story was fascinating. Raised in small town Alberta, essentially orphaned at age thirteen, went to live with her aunt and uncle, who owned a bookstore. From there, she fell in love with books and writing. She published her debut novel at the age of twenty-seven. It was a modern supernatural western about a young woman tasked with hunting demons. It was reasonably successful amongst fans of the genre, but didn’t become popular in the mainstream until the sequel was announced, along with the movie deal. And then just a couple of months ago, she released the third and final installment of the trilogy.

Waverly and Wynonna shared that story. Up until the getting published part.

She spent her free time living in Gus and Curtis’s bookstore. Like Wynonna, she loved westerns. She also loved adventures and historical fiction. By the time she reached her teens, she fell in love with history, and decided to study it at university. While Wynonna became Canada’s hottest author, Waverly pursued her graduate studies in archaeology, requiring her to travel all over the continent for field work. She started a website and an Instagram account to document her trips and her discoveries, which got picked up by BuzzFeed.

The headlines were cringe-worthy.

Waverly Earp is Canada’s own Lara Croft

Archaeologist Waverly Earp’s Instagram makes digging look cute

Quotes from Waverly Earp’s blog that’s convinced us that she’s the modern day Evelyn Carnahan-O’Connell

Never mind that Evelyn Carnahan-O’Connell was a fictional character played by Rachel Weisz.

The social media attention turned into attention from publishing houses, which turned into a book deal. Waverly had to request an extension for her PhD thesis deadline so she could finish the book, which her editor had described as “popular history”. It was packed with history knowledge, but was also a travel guide in Waverly’s unique voice. It was entitled The Dirt On… , which Waverly didn’t choose. She was just relieved that Extravagant Excavating Expeditions was quickly crossed off the list of options.

The book wasn’t going to be released until the winter, but Waverly’s publisher suggested attending festivals throughout the country for visibility. Of course, being a first-time author, the publishing house wouldn’t pay for everything, and Waverly’s wages from her job at the UBC Museum of Anthropology were only enough to pay for her living expenses in Vancouver. Thank god for Wynonna.

***

Waverly spent her entire life in her sister’s shadow. It had its advantages. Wynonna had all this pressure on her, while Waverly got to do what she wanted. Teenage Wynonna never dealt well with pressure, and nearly bombed out of high school. But for Waverly, high school was a breeze. She had fun. She was successful. She had been valedictorian. But the older she got, the more she started to think that she may have peaked too early.

She passed by an ever-ubiquitous Chapters kiosk. The front table had copies of Wynonna’s latest novel on display. Of course, over the last five years or so, it had been difficult to turn around anywhere in Canada and not see a Wynonna Earp novel. Waverly picked one up anyway and opened to the dedication page.

For Waverly, as always

That never failed to make Waverly smile.

She was about to replace the book back on the table when someone knocked into her from behind, causing the book to fall to the floor.

“Oh, crap, sorry.”

Waverly turned around to face a tall woman with short red hair. There was something familiar about her, but Waverly couldn’t figure it out. “Uh, it’s okay,” she said.

The woman smiled down at her. “You a Wynonna Earp fan?” she asked.

“Something like that, yeah,” Waverly said. “I think I’ve seen you before.”

“Hmm, no, I would remember you.” Smirking, the woman stuck her hand out. “I’m Nicole Haught,” she said.

That was why she seemed familiar. Two years ago, Nicole Haught published a book about outdoor climbing all over North America. It was a guide to climbing but also a journal of sorts. And because Nicole Haught was sporty, attractive and a good writer, Canada was briefly obsessed with finding out everything about her. She had played into it with an active social media presence, where she documented her adventures. Naturally, BuzzFeed loved her.

Nicole Haught is Canada’s badass Cheryl Strayed

10 times Nicole Haught showed us that climbing is introspective AF

“Oh, yes,” Waverly said. She shook Nicole’s hand, trying to act casual. As if she had never heard of her before. As if she hadn’t followed her on Instagram. “I’m Waverly.” She left out her last name, like she had learned to do anywhere in the presence of books.

Nicole Haught’s eyes widened. “Waverly?” She bent down and picked up the book that Waverly had dropped. She flipped through the pages until she got to the dedication. “ This Waverly?” she asked. When Waverly didn’t respond right away, she spoke again, her brown eyes soft and earnest: “ To Waverly–who taught me magic without ever putting down her book.

It was the dedication of Wynonna’s first novel. Waverly was stunned that she was here, and Nicole Haught, of all people, was quoting it back to her. “Yeah, I’m that Waverly.”

“Cool. That’s super cool,” Nicole Haught said. She placed the book back on the display. “Exciting first day, huh? Calgary is nice this time of year. What are you up to today?”

“I was actually going to the Randy Nedley Q&A,” Waverly said.

Nicole Haught pulled a programme out of her maroon bomber jacket, which oddly didn’t clash with her hair, even though it should have. The programme had scribbles in the margins, and various events circled or underlined. “Oh, I would’ve liked to come to that,” she said. “But I’ve got a panel.”

“Oh.” Waverly didn’t know why, but she was disappointed that Nicole Haught couldn’t come with her. “Good luck for your panel. Maybe I’ll run into you later, or on another day.”

“I’m holding you to that.” Nicole Haught was smiling, almost shyly. She began to walk backwards, away from the kiosk. “See you later, Waverly.” After waving, she turned around.

Waverly watched her until she disappeared into a crowd of people taking photographs with a cardboard John Henry Holliday. “Nicole Haught,” she murmured to herself.

 

 

ii

Toronto International Festival of Authors

Calgary seemed quiet, even quaint, compared to how Toronto put on a show.

Unlike being spread throughout several smaller venues, Toronto’s biggest book festival was held at the Harbourfront Centre. It lasted for eleven days.

It was already the fifth day of the festival, but Waverly hadn’t managed to enjoy herself properly. She had spent the last week going back and forth with her publisher about whether she should use a different surname on her book, which was being released in a month’s time. Originally, she was happy with just Waverly Earp, associations to her more famous sister be damned. Besides, she already had an established following using that name. But she was going through a change of heart. Perhaps using ‘Gibson’, their mother’s maiden name, would be better.

“Waverly,” her publisher said, “as much I love talking to you, I think this is the ninth phone call we’ve had discussing the same little topic, and we still haven’t reached an agreement.”

“It’s not a little topic, Perry!” Waverly pouted, though he couldn’t see. “It’s literally the name that’s going on the cover of my book.”

“Yes, so you’re going to have to make a decision,” Perry said. “We’re going to print in three days.”

“And I will make my decision before then,” Waverly snapped.

Perry was having none of her attitude. “All right,” he said flatly. “I’ll call you again tomorrow.”

“Thank you. Goodbye.” Waverly hung up.

“That sounded a bit intense,” a voice said. “Is everything okay?”

Waverly looked up from her phone. “Nicole Haught,” she breathed.

Nicole Haught—same bomber jacket, shaggier hair—laughed. “Please, Waverly,” she said. “Just ‘Nicole’ is fine.”

***

They ended up away from the Harbourfront Centre and in a nearby bar.

Nicole Haught— Nicole —ordered a bottle of pinot gris to share and led Waverly to a booth, instead of sitting at the bar. After her phone went off a few times, she made a show of taking it out of her pocket and putting it on silent. She lifted her glass. “To no interruptions,” she said.

“I’ll drink to that,” Waverly said. They clinked glasses. She watched as Nicole shifted in her seat. The first time they met, only a couple of short weeks ago, Nicole seemed unflappable, but today she was restless. “How are you enjoying the festival?”

“A hell of a lot better than my life outside of it,” Nicole said. “My new book came out on the first day.”

Waverly knew that. She had looked it up after she met Nicole. Nicole’s new book was about organisations that focused on bringing young people outdoors. Waverly hadn’t gotten around to buying a copy, but she planned to soon. The book took pride of place at every Chapters kiosk she passed.

Nicole continued talking, “I’m not too good at dealing with online reactions. Honestly, I care too much about them. That’s why I asked my publisher if we could release the book just in time for this festival. I could just be here, networking and attending panels, and not have time to look at my phone.”

“Fair enough,” Waverly said. She thought about how she would cope with it, once her book came out. She knew that there were people who were going to read it, for sure, but Waverly wondered if people who didn’t know her already would pick it up.

“Anyway.” With a shrug, Nicole tried to make herself look as relaxed as possible. “I looked you up, Waverly Earp. Your book is coming out in December, right?”

“Yep.”

“You excited?”

“Kind of?”

Nicole raised an eyebrow. “Kind of?”

“Well, that phone call you caught the tail end of, that was my publisher. The book is going to print in two days and he’s asking me to make a decision on the author’s name that will be printed on it,” Waverly said.

“Simple. Waverly Earp, right? What a name,” Nicole said. There was that smile again, the same one she was giving her in Calgary.

Waverly shook her head. “I was thinking about Waverly Gibson,” she said. “That’s my mother’s maiden name. I know I’m already known as Waverly Earp, but maybe other people would pick up the book if I used ‘Gibson’ instead.”

“Who do you mean by ‘other people’?” Nicole asked.

“Actual historians,” Waverly said.

Nicole leaned forward. “All right, so you’ve got a solid social media following, so you’re guaranteed to sell books, but you want to change your name on the book? Isn’t that a bit confusing?”

“It is, but then would historians pick up the book if all they knew of Waverly Earp was that she has ninety thousand Instagram followers?” Waverly sipped her wine. “Besides, Waverly Gibson doesn’t have the baggage that comes with Waverly Earp .” She also knew that people might pick up her book to find out her connection to Wynonna.

“Your reasons aren’t good enough,” Nicole said bluntly.

“Excuse me?”

“Not to sound like a publisher, but your brand is already Waverly Earp. Don’t touch that anymore. People know you by that name, and if they like your book, then news travels fast. Some actual historian is going to hear about it and if they’re not a stodgy old fart, they might get their hands on a copy, read it, and end up liking it and telling all their historian friends,” Nicole said. “And you shouldn’t be worried about the baggage of your name, if it means the demon-hunting fandom end up learning something about history.”

That was the most Nicole had ever made a reference to Wynonna and her fame. Her words sunk into Waverly, and they actually made sense. It was what she was trying not to admit to herself. Wanting to change to ‘Gibson’ was less of a gesture for her long lost mother, but instead, more of a manifestation of her insecurity about being an Earp. Her readers, her followers, they mentioned Wynonna occasionally on the comments, and that was inevitable. But they were primarily interested in Waverly . They always had been. She was already an Earp of her own standing, and she needed to own it.

***

They walked back to the Harbourfront Centre so that Nicole could make it in time for the young adult sci-fi panel that she wanted to attend. They got there well ahead, so Waverly stopped at the first Chapters kiosk she could find and bought Nicole’s book before Nicole even had a chance to react.

“I could have given you a copy,” she told Waverly, as they left the kiosk and Waverly was tucking the book into her bag.

“Then I wouldn’t be supporting the author, would I?” Waverly teased.

“Well, I’ll make sure to buy yours the day it comes out,” Nicole said. She stopped outside a room that had a queue forming. “This is me.”

“I’m meeting Wynonna for dinner,” Waverly told her. “I’ll see you around?”

Nicole smiled at her. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Waverly.”

There were six days left. They were bound to run into each other somehow. “It’s not a promise,” Waverly said, chuckling. “It’s just me saying that I’ll try my best.”

“I’m holding you to that,” Nicole said. “Enjoy your dinner.”

This time, Waverly was the one who walked away. And she could feel Nicole’s eyes on her as she did.

 

 

iii

Frye Festival (Moncton)

“Your first festival as an officially published author!” Wynonna threw her arms around Waverly and gave her a wet, sloppy kiss on the cheek. “I’m so proud of you! How does it feel, baby girl?”

Waverly relaxed into her sister’s embrace. “It feels great.”

The Dirt On… hit the shelves a week before they travelled to Moncton. Perry couldn’t find a place for her on a panel or a bookstore meet and greet, but he happily paid for a VIP package, so that Waverly had access to every exclusive event without having to be Wynonna’s plus one. She was a VIP on her own terms. She nearly asked Perry for her own hotel room, but she thought that her first festival as an honest-to-goodness author was best spent with her sister.

The spotlight on this year’s Frye Festival was on John Henry Holliday, Canada’s historical fiction darling. He was a good friend of Wynonna’s. She had even convinced him to move to her publishing house. John Henry hadn’t published anything in the last three years, but his most recent novel was on the Man Booker Prize shortlist, and the shine hadn’t worn off. It helped that the novel was also set in New Brunswick.

John Henry could have been a character in one of his novels. He seemed older than his years, and aside from refusing to shave his moustache, he was fond of wearing heritage workwear pieces, as if he was actually a pioneer cattle farmer and not a Calgary-based whiskey connoisseur with a spa membership. His faux rugged appearance added to his mainstream appeal.

According to BuzzFeed , he was the writer making the Canadian Confederation sexy .

At the exclusive authors’ gala, Wynonna led Waverly to the bar where John Henry was standing, surrounded by a gaggle of women while he sipped his whiskey and listened to their stories. As soon as he spotted the Earp sisters, he called them over, and the women dispersed.

There was a prevalent rumour that Wynonna and John Henry were a thing . Even Waverly couldn't work out if that was true.

John Henry kissed Wynonna on the cheek, and did the same to Waverly. “Read your book,” he told Waverly quietly. “You did a great job. You should be really proud.”

Waverly grasped his arm. “Thanks.”

Wynonna ordered a whiskey for herself. “Waves, what do you want?” she asked.

“Just chardonnay for me, thanks,” Waverly told the bartender.

Wynonna’s attention focused somewhere in the distance. She beamed. “Oh, look who’s coming.”

Waverly followed her sister’s line of sight, and it landed on Xavier Dolls and Nicole Haught, walking towards them together. Before that moment, it didn’t occur to her that she and Nicole would have mutual friends.

Dolls returned Wynonna’s smile as he neared. He was Wynonna’s other rumoured boyfriend. Tonight he was wearing a midnight blue tuxedo, looking as every bit as dashing as the spies who starred in the movies based on his books. “Hey everyone.” He presented Nicole to them. “Look who I found!”

“Nicole!” John Henry exclaimed.

“Comin’ in Haught!” Wynonna cheered, at the same time.

What did she just say? Waverly watched as Wynonna gave Nicole a hug, before letting go and then turning to kiss Dolls’s cheek. She was about to ask the question when Dolls wrapped her up in a hug. “Thanks for sending me a copy, Waverly,” he told her. “I couldn’t put it down.”

Wynonna placed her hand on Waverly’s shoulder. “Waverly, this is Nicole,” she said.

Nicole tucked a lock of hair behind her ears. She wore flared black trousers, with a tight white top and a black blazer that flattered her figure. It was nice to see her all dressed up.

“Uh, yeah, we’ve met,” she said.

“When?” Wynonna asked.

“In Calgary, and in Toronto, too,” Waverly said.

Wynonna put her hands on her hips. She glared at Nicole, but everyone knew it was in jest. “Dammit, Haught. I knew I should have never let Waverly out of my sight,” she said in a menacing, yet playful tone.

Nicole scoffed. “Oh, please, she can handle herself,” she said. “And I’m a nice person.”

Waverly couldn’t help but nod along. Both things were certainly true. “How did you guys meet?”

“I showed her the ropes during her first festival after she got published,” Wynonna said. “Nicole didn’t know how to game the system to get more free swag.”

“I could have figured it out without you,” Nicole said.

“Sure, sure. It’s been established that I am the expert.” Wynonna clapped a hand on Nicole’s back. “I keep telling her to come to the homestead, but she’s too busy planning whatever she’s going to write about next.” By ‘the homestead’, Wynonna referred to the not-insubstantial piece of family land they inherited from their father, on which Wynonna had built a million-dollar home using the royalties from her first movie. For the last four years, Wynonna had been hosting an invite-only, writer’s retreat on the homestead in the summer, though it was less of a retreat and more of an excuse to go on a weeklong bender.

“Oh yeah, that would be a great idea,” Waverly said. She wanted to spend more time with Nicole. Nicole had this magnetic quality about her. Even Wynonna seemed captured by it.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Nicole said. “Thanks for sending me a copy. I was honoured to read it.”

Waverly blushed as she remembered signing an inscription on the copy she had sent to Nicole’s publisher. She didn’t even do that for John Henry or Dolls. “It was no biggie,” she said. “Did you like the dedication?”

“Of course.” Nicole turned to Wynonna. “ For Wynonna–because of you, I learned to embrace the dirt .”

Wynonna stroked her chin. “Hmm, still not as snappy as the dedication in my debut, baby girl,” she said, winking at Waverly. “But I guess I can’t complain. Nobody has ever dedicated a book to me before.”

***

The brat pack eventually went off to do brat pack things, leaving Waverly and Nicole to wander out of the gala alone. They found a quiet place in one of the hotel’s many lounges. Waverly was clutching a bottle of merlot that Wynonna had thrust into her hands, while Nicole had made off with a barely touched cheeseboard from one of the tables.

“A trick Wynonna taught me,” Nicole said, watching Waverly place a piece of brie on a cracker. “You approach the high-flying publishers fresh out of enduring their unpaid internships. They never touch their cheeseboards because they eat paleo or something.”

The brie was supermarket-level, but any cheese was elevated with decent wine. “Good call,” Waverly said.

“I liked your book so much, I’m going to give my second copy to my mother,” Nicole said.

“You have another copy?” Waverly asked.

“I told you I’d buy yours the day it came out,” Nicole said. She saw that Waverly was starting to blush, so she cleared her throat. “Anyway, I have never read anything that made me want to go to Saskatchewan, until I read your book.”

“That is an insult to the good people of Tourism Saskatchewan.”

Nicole laughed. “I’m a bit mean, aren’t I? My Vancouverite is coming out.”

“You’re from Vancouver?” Waverly asked.

“I grew up outside Toronto, but yeah, I’m based out west now. North Van, to be precise,” Nicole said.

“Oh, I live out by UBC,” Waverly said.

“Cool, we’re in the same city. We should get together sometime. Maybe go snowshoeing on Grouse Mountain?” Nicole suggested.

“Never tried it before, but it sounds awesome,” Waverly said.

Nicole grinned. “It’s great. Let me know when you want to go, and I’ll make arrangements.”

“Definitely.” The thought of spending time in the snow with Nicole, and perhaps going for hot chocolate afterwards, excited her.

“Do you go out to Kits much? I love going to Tanglewood, but I don’t usually go further than that part of town,” Nicole told her.

“Tanglewood is probably way better than dealing with the crowds of students at UBC. Though I’m a Pulpfiction gal myself. Their stock changes more frequently,” Waverly said. Pulpfiction’s vibe also reminded her of Gus and Curtis’s bookstore. “Not that I can afford to buy books very often.”

“I stop by Pulpfiction when I can as well,” Nicole said. “It’s weird, eh? We’ve been crossing paths quite a few times, without us even knowing.”

“I know. Every festival I’ve been to, you’re there,” Waverly said.

“Well, that’s kind of what happens when you’re in the book business,” Nicole said. There was a conspiratorial undertone to her voice, implying that she and Waverly were part of an exclusive club. “Don’t tell me you’re getting sick of me already.”

Waverly smiled at Nicole. “No, I quite enjoy crossing paths with you.”

 

 

iv

Vancouver Writers Festival

There were two milestones in Vancouver.

The first was that Waverly was finally on the programme. Twice, in fact. Both were daytime events: the first was a conversation with a historical fiction author and a history professor, and the second was a nonfiction panel that was designed for the school groups that came in. Waverly felt a bit out of her depth in the first event, but found herself really enjoying the second. The students in the audience ranged from the age of eight to eighteen, and while the younger kids were interested about her field work, the older kids had more insightful questions, and a number of them were familiar with her blog and her Instagram.

The second milestone was that she managed to do it without Wynonna by her side. Wynonna wasn’t on the programme, because she had scheduled Hollywood meetings about the second film in the trilogy. It was a strange feeling, being the only Earp on the programme, and not being the Earp that most people were expecting.

During the panel, a kid, about ten years old, had asked: “Did you and your sister ever write any stories together?”

“Yes. Wynonna and I spent a lot of time together growing up, and neither of us had many friends outside of school, so it was just the two of us, especially during breaks,” Waverly had told her. “I think most siblings do make up their own stories together, when they’re playing with their dolls or Legos and those sorts of things, but Wynonna and I didn’t come from a family that could afford toys.” She had looked out into the audience to see the kids’ reactions. Some of them were nodding in understanding, and some looked confused at the thought of not being able to afford toys.

Waverly had smiled before she continued, because this was the part of the story that she liked the best: “What we would do was build a fort, pick out one of our books at random, and then we’d read the ending and then start making up a sequel to it. Because Wynonna was older than me, she would come up with these dark, twisty, kinda scary or sad stories, and then she’d get annoyed when I’d always start telling a happy one.” The kids had laughed at that.

After the panel, Waverly met up with Jeremy and Rosita, her best friends and roommates. Both of them were PhD students at UBC, like Waverly.

Jeremy was practically bouncing on the balls of his feet. “Girl, you were awesome!”

Rosita’s reaction was more laid back. “You did great up there, Waverly.”

Waverly stood between them and linked her arms through theirs. “Come on.” She began marching them towards the street. “There’s a Timmy’s across the road. I want a donut.”

“Mind if I come along?”

Waverly turned, nearly causing Jeremy to topple over as unlike Rosita, he wasn’t quick enough to break their linked arms. “Nicole?” She felt Rosita elbow her in the ribs. “I mean, hi, Nicole! It’s so nice to see you! What are you doing here?” Waverly felt like kicking herself. She wouldn’t be feeling this jittery around Nicole if she hadn’t spent Christmas break denying her crush on her to Rosita and Jeremy.

“Uh.” Nicole played with the zipper of her coat. “I was at your panel.”

“You were?” It was a smaller auditorium and Waverly swore she would have been able to spot that head of red hair anywhere.

Rosita elbowed her again.

“Oh, sorry.” Waverly gestured to her friends. “Rosita, Jeremy, this is Nicole Haught. Nicole, this is Rosita and this is Jeremy,” she made the quick introductions. “We live together.”

Nicole stepped forward and shook their hands. “Nice to meet you guys.”

“Charmed, charmed,” Jeremy said, in that awkward voice he did when he was forced to have a normal human interaction. “I generally hate being outside, but your books are good. Waverly recommended them to me. They’re almost like being outside , but better.”

“We have heard a lot about you,” Rosita said.

“Really.” Nicole turned to Waverly with a questioning, yet amused expression. “Good things?”

Rosita smirked. “Only the best .”

Waverly jumped in: “Come with us, Nicole. We’re gonna grab some donuts and coffee.”

Nicole smiled. “Sounds perfect.”

***

The following evening, Waverly, Jeremy and Rosita attended Nicole’s solo evening event. It was an hour and a half long, and consisted of an interview, a reading, and a Q&A segment. They hadn’t planned on attending, having missed out on reserving the free spots, but Nicole offered up the complimentary spots that she was given. Jeremy and Rosita jumped at the chance. Waverly was not surprised that her friends would be thoroughly charmed by Nicole; at one point in the packed auditorium, she dared to wonder who wasn’t.

Nicole onstage was not much different from the Nicole that Waverly had come to know. The only difference of note was that her humour was looser, and she seemed a little jittery. But she was articulate and had a practiced manner of connecting with her audience. It reminded Waverly a little bit of Dolls. In their public personas, Wynonna and John Henry were pretty much the same people as they were in private. But Dolls had an electricity to him that was in contrast to his usual calmness, not unlike how Nicole was. And just as Waverly always liked that about Dolls, she couldn’t help liking it about Nicole.

When it was over, Waverly and her friends stood in the lobby as people milled around them.

“I will only say this once because it pains me a little bit, but that might even be cooler than the time you introduced me to John Henry Holliday,” Jeremy gushed.

“Didn’t you almost pass out when he shook your hand?” Rosita asked.

“Shut up, we don’t talk about that,” Jeremy said.

Rosita looked at the time on her phone. “All right, guys, should we grab something to eat and then call it a night? Some of us have classes to teach tomorrow,” she said. She looked over Waverly’s shoulder. “Oh. That’s our cue, Jeremy.” She threaded her arm through his.

“What? Where are you guys going?” Waverly asked. She spun around to see what both of them were looking at.

“Hi, Waverly,” Nicole said.

“Oh, hi.”

Nicole was a little bit more dressed up than Waverly usually saw her, in fitted grey trousers and a light blue button-down, with Blundstones. She had her coat draped over her arm. “I’m sorry. I seem to have a habit of sneaking up on you,” she said.

“That’s okay,” Waverly said. “No need to apologise.”

“I hope you all enjoyed tonight,” Nicole said.

“Yes, we did,” Rosita said graciously. “Thank you for the seats.”

Nicole smiled at her. “My pleasure.”

Rosita tugged on Jeremy’s arm. “Anyway, Jeremy and I have early lectures tomorrow, so we’re gonna have to head home,” she said. “Thanks again, Nicole. It was an enlightening evening.”

“Yes, thank you very much,” Jeremy said.

They said their goodbyes to Waverly before making a prompt exit. And just like that, Waverly and Nicole were alone again.

“So.” Nicole shifted her weight from one foot to another. “We’re alone again.”

***

Nicole suggested that they leave the venue, so they ended up over the bridge, at a pub in North Vancouver, where she was clearly a regular, down to the complimentary duck fat fries.

Waverly didn’t refuse the fries, despite trying a vegan diet. They were moreish.

“Who influenced your writing?” Waverly asked Nicole. It was a lame question, and it hadn’t been asked at Nicole’s event for that reason, but she still wanted to know.

“Guess,” Nicole challenged.

“Bill Bryson.”

Nicole laughed. “You really take me for a Bill Bryson fan?”

“Well, didn’t BuzzFeed say that you were the queer, female Bill Bryson?” Waverly teased.

“Oh, god.” Nicole cringed. “I mean, he’s a good writer, but once you’ve read him once, you’ve kind of read him all, haven’t you? That’s the kind of writer I’m trying not to be. I always work hard to try to be fresh every time I write something new.” She had a sip of wine. “Besides, I like to think of myself as a more cheerful, less esoteric Robert Moor.” She was referring to the writer who also wrote about the outdoors, lived in British Columbia, and also happened to be gay.

“Have they gotten the two of you in the same room before?” Waverly asked.

“Yes, last year, we had one of those ‘conversation’ things together at the Portland Book Festival,” Nicole said. “Our books came out the same year.”

“Bet you made a good-looking gay pair.” Waverly clapped a hand over her mouth. “Okay, I wasn’t supposed to say that out loud.”

It was either the lighting, or Nicole was looking smug. “I heard you perfectly, Waverly.”

“Dammit.”

“And yes, Robert Moor is even better looking than in the photos,” Nicole said. “Anyway,” she cleared her throat, “my writing influences. Well, I don’t think I write like her, exactly, but when I was in high school, I borrowed this book from the library. It was the diaries of this lady called Isabelle Eberhardt.”

“Oh my god, I’ve heard of that! That’s the one where she disguises herself as a man so that she could travel around Africa, right?” Waverly hadn’t read the book, but she had seen it on a list somewhere.

“That’s the one,” Nicole said. “I just remember reading it and being in awe of what this woman has done. She died at twenty-seven, you know? So I’ve lived longer than her and I can’t imagine being that brave or adventurous.”

“I think you’re plenty brave and adventurous,” Waverly said.

“Thanks.” Nicole leaned forward. This was a habit of hers that Waverly had observed, done before she asked a question. “How about you? Who are your influences?”

“Surprisingly not a historian or a history writer. I read a lot of history books growing up, but never tried writing in that style,” Waverly said. “One of my favourites was Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee . But I love Anthony Bourdain. When I first started writing, like writing properly , I’d hear my words in his voice.”

“Interesting choice. I can definitely see it in your tone sometimes, and you know, the way you choose how to phrase things,” Nicole said. “I think I write a bit like Cory Doctorow. Barrages of paragraphs, lots of info dumps, but good sense of pacing. That’s the main reason that he’s readable.”

“As a Little Brother fan, I can tell you now that while your structures are similar, I think your writing is livelier than Cory Doctorow’s.”

Nicole frowned. “I thought Homeland was better than Little Brother , which is strange for a sequel,” she commented.

Homeland got too real!”

“It aged with the reader!” Nicole retorted.

***

Nicole invited Waverly back to her house, which was nearby, and Waverly found herself agreeing.

Located in the suburbs, Nicole’s house was a three-bedroom home designed for a small family. When she bought it, the interior was fully renovated with modern finishings. “I used my advance on a down payment, and my parents helped me out a little bit,” she explained to Waverly. “It was before North Van got too expensive.”

Nicole made tea and directed Waverly to her lounge. It had a TV and a couch and a coffee table, but what caught Waverly’s attention was the wall of bookshelves, which was two-thirds full. She stood closer to it and inspected Nicole’s collection. She had Austen and Fitzgerald and Woolf and Wilde, but also had modern authors, like Adichie and Rachmann and Trollope. She even had young adult fiction. Nicole’s books were organised in alphabetical order by author, so she quickly found Dolls, Earp, and Holliday.

Nicole returned from the kitchen holding a tray with a teapot, two cups, and a small jar of sugar. She set it down on the coffee table and stood beside Waverly. “Nonfiction is over there,” she pointed to the second set of shelves. She ran her finger along the spines of the books, and stopped at a familiar paperback. “Here you are.”

Waverly searched the shelf until she found Nicole’s books. “You only have one copy each of your books?”

“I’ve got a couple of boxes of them in my study,” Nicole said. “Felt useless to display all of them. This isn’t a Chapters.” She gestured to the coffee table. “Come, let’s have some tea.”

They sat beside each other on the couch, and Waverly looked around. As a writer, Nicole was doing well for herself. Sure, she couldn’t build her own mansion, but her house was tidy and it was obvious that she wasn’t short on money. Waverly couldn’t help but wonder if she would ever get to that stage in her career.

As if reading her mind, Nicole said, “I worked retail until my book started picking up traction, to make the payments on this house. I can breathe a bit easy now that I can afford to write and travel full time.”

“You don’t seem like the suburban type,” Waverly commented.

“I used to think that about myself, but then I realised I don’t mind living out this way,” Nicole said. “Getting up to Grouse Mountain is really quick. I’m surrounded by parks. And you know, I’m travelling a lot of the time now, so it’s nice to have somewhere quieter.” She shrugged. “It’s not your homestead, but it’s pretty close.”

“It’s Wynonna’s homestead,” Waverly said. “I don’t know where I want to settle yet. I’m not even thinking that far ahead, since I’ve still got my PhD to finish. I’ll probably be living in grad student housing until I’m thirty.”

“You don’t know that. People are reading your book, Waverly. And if they know a good thing, they’ll enjoy the book as much as I did.” In her sincerity, Nicole inched closer to her. “Besides, there’s no shame in living within your means. If you’re too comfortable, too luxurious, what else have you got to write about?”

“It’s not that. Sometimes I feel like I’m a poser, you know,” Waverly took a deep breath. “When I was little, my Uncle Curtis got a hold of an old PlayStation from one of our customers, and he ended up hooking it up to our TV so that Wynonna and I could play with it. But really, it was only Wynonna playing with it.” She watched as Nicole’s expression softened in sympathy. “We tried playing together at first, but she was sixteen and I was nine, so it just got frustrating for her. So what she used to do was hand me the second controller and convince me that it was plugged in, that it was actually me playing on the screen with her. I believed her, too, until our aunt caught her and gave her an earful.”

Nicole nodded, encouraging her to finish her story.

“I still feel like it’s like that sometimes. Like all of these things that are happening to me is just for show, and sooner or later someone’s gonna tell me the truth and I realise I haven’t actually gotten anywhere,” Waverly said. “That all I’ve been doing is living vicariously through Wynonna. Again.”

“Waverly.” Nicole placed her teacup on the table and took Waverly’s hands. “This is real. You know it’s real. This festival, you were on two events. On your own! Wynonna wasn’t there with you. You didn’t get on the programme because of Wynonna. They weren’t interested in you because of Wynonna. They’re interested in you because you put something out there that nobody has done for a very long time.” She gave Waverly’s hands a reassuring squeeze. “I look at you, and I know these are things you’ve heard before. You need to start believing them.”

“How do you do that?” Waverly asked.

“Do what?”

Now Waverly was aware of how close they were. Their hands joined, their knees knocked together, their voices barely above a whisper. “You always get me out of my own head,” Waverly told Nicole.

Nicole’s brown eyes were bright and open and filled with the earnestness that made her the writer and the person that she was. “Yeah?” she asked.

“I want to try something.” Waverly pulled her hands from Nicole’s, and cupped Nicole’s cheeks. She leaned forward and Nicole met her in the middle. Nicole’s lips were firm and a little bit chapped. She tasted like tea. Waverly heard Nicole inhale, and then felt Nicole’s hands on her back, pulling her even closer. In response, Waverly’s fingers threaded through the hair on the back of Nicole’s neck, lightly scratching at the skin there.

Nicole broke away. “Waverly,” she breathed.

Waverly rested her forehead against Nicole’s, willing her to relax, to slow her breathing, before pulling her in once more.

 

 

v

Winnipeg International Writers Festival

Perry Crofte was a good man, and an even better publisher, but he was known for being difficult to find at the best of times. It was something short of a miracle that he managed to meet Waverly for lunch. In Winnipeg, of all places. He had chosen a bistro in a trendy part of town, a place that couldn’t quite decide whether its cuisine was French, Italian, or gussied up prairieland fare. They also didn’t have enough vegan options, but Waverly wasn’t about to make Perry feel bad about it. He was paying, after all.

“I have numbers for you,” Perry said, after the appetisers were taken away. The Dirt On… had been out for three months at this point. “We have two thousand physical copies sold in Canada and the US, but where you’re really killing it is in the eBook market. Just over three thousand on Kindle alone!” He beamed at Waverly. “I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s great numbers in today’s business, especially for nonfiction.”

It was going to take years for Waverly to be able to make a living writing books. And she doubted that anyone would want to adapt her adventures into a film. She wasn’t Lara Croft. She was a nerdy Albertan who worked at an anthropology museum. “Do you have anything from library loans?” Waverly asked.

“There’s really not one place where I can get that information, so I’ve still got my people working on it,” Perry told her. “And I’ve been reading the reviews. They’ve been mostly positive.”

Waverly had decided not to read any reviews, by legitimate critics or otherwise. She had even turned off Twitter and Instagram mentions on her phone, and had refused to read comments on her blog for months. “What do you mean ‘mostly’? What are they saying?” she asked.

“Oh, nothing mean.” Perry waved her off.

“Well, tell me something constructive, at least,” Waverly said.

Perry squirmed in his seat. “Uh, well, they said that it wasn’t literature , but that everyone who reads it is going to learn something,” he said. “The Regina Leader-Post even said that you might just inspire a tourism boom in Saskatchewan, if more people picked your book up.”

“Oh god,” Waverly said.

“But isn’t that what you wanted anyway?” Perry said.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Waverly said. She loved writing, but she had to be honest. Nobody went through the arduous process of publishing for the love of the craft. Waverly had a little vanity in her and it was high time she admitted it.

***

On the third day of the festival, Waverly and Wynonna were both free, so they decided to avoid the venue entirely and have a day to themselves. They slept in, ordered room service, and took their time getting ready. They walked around the city, which was ongoing the early throes of spring, much like back home in Alberta.

They sat on a bench by the river in Bonnycastle Park. Waverly unconsciously dug out her well-worn festival programme from her bag, and fidgeted with it by flipping through the pages aimlessly. Wynonna, who was taking photographs of the river on her phone, stopped to watch her.

“Doing that isn’t going to make Nicole Haught magically appear,” Wynonna said. “She’s in Ireland on a research trip.”

“I know ,” Waverly said. She saw it on Nicole’s Instagram.

“Has she talked to you about whether she was coming to the Homestead over the summer?” Wynonna asked. “She’s been a little cagey about confirming. If she’s not going, maybe I can invite Kate, although I don’t really want to.”

“Kate?”

“Vampire lady. MK Horony-Cummings,” Wynonna said bitterly. Her tone probably had something to do with the fact that MK Horony-Cummings had a well-publicised relationship with John Henry Holliday. “She’s good friends with John Henry, and now Dolls, too. She’s really cool, I just…” Wynonna trailed off, finishing her sentence with a shrug.

Her sister had never been much good at sharing. Waverly cleared her throat. “Uh, Nicole hasn’t told me whether she’s coming or not either,” she said. “We actually haven’t spoken since the festival in Vancouver.”

“What? That was in February!” Wynonna said. “What happened? I thought you two were friends.”

“I kinda kissed her,” Waverly admitted.

Wynonna’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean ‘kinda’?” she demanded. “How do you ‘kinda’ kiss someone?”

“Okay, I fully made out with her.”

“Waverly!” Wynonna’s tone was shocked, but Waverly could tell that she was impressed. In a quieter voice, she asked, “You like girls?”

“Women, I guess,” Waverly said, shrugging.

“And you like Nicole ,” Wynonna said.

“Yes, I guess I do.” Waverly exhaled loudly. “God, she was being so nice, and we were having a good time, and you know, we’ve seen each other quite a bit over the last few months so I thought we had a bit of a thing going on. So I kissed her!”

Wynonna was on the edge of her seat. “And? Did she kiss you back?”

“Of course she did! And then I just thought, ‘What the hell am I doing?’, and then I got up and called a cab and waited outside in the freaking cold!” Waverly exclaimed, heat rising to her cheeks as she remembered that night.

“What? She didn’t even wait out with you?” Wynonna scowled.

“No, no, I insisted. I needed time to like, cool down and think about things.”

“So the kiss got you all Haught and bothered then?”

Waverly swatted Wynonna’s arm. “Come on! Not funny.”

Wynonna’s expression softened. “Why did you leave her there, Waverly? Did she make you feel uncomfortable?” she asked.

“No.” Waverly shook her head. “Just the opposite. I just…” She sighed. “I got embarrassed, I guess. Women probably throw themselves at Nicole Haught all the time. Doesn’t make me special.”

“And did she give you the impression that this is a regular thing that happens to her?”

“No.”

Waverly . Now it just sounds like you ghosted her,” Wynonna said. “You need to reach out to her. Did she get in touch with you at all after that night?”

“She did, but I kept giving her one-word replies until she just stopped messaging me altogether,” Waverly said. The realisation hit her. “Oh shit. I did ghost her.”

Wynonna patted Waverly’s thigh. “You did, baby girl. You probably broke her heart a little bit there,” she said.

“I did not!” Waverly protested.

“Oh, really? How would you know? You haven’t even talked to her,” Wynonna shot back.

“Ugh!” Waverly slumped over. “She’s out of my league.”

“Hell no. We’re not doing this.” Wynonna nudged her in the ribs, so that she would straighten up. “If I can teach you one thing, Waverly, it’s that you’re an Earp, and Earps go after what they want. And you deserve what you want. You deserve the world, Waves.”

Waverly leaned into Wynonna’s open arms. Wynonna’s hair tickled her nose. “For once, you’re giving me useful advice,” she joked.

“Treasure it while it lasts,” Wynonna said. “Now, tell me how you discovered your attraction to women. So I know the signs.” She smirked. “It may just hit me one day soon.”

 

 

vi

Growing Room: A Feminist Literary Festival (Vancouver)

Waverly agreed to attend this festival to be a part of a panel called “Where in the world are the women in adventure?” The organisers had told her that it was a roundtable discussion on the decline of the female writer-explorer and hopes for the possible revival of the subgenre. Waverly was part of group that included thru-hikers, ocean swimmers, and Nicole Haught .

She didn’t see Nicole until before the event in the green room. She caught her eye, and Nicole gave her a small wave, but didn’t approach her to talk. Waverly debated on whether she should make the first move, but then they had to go onstage.

As the discussion went on, Waverly felt more and more honoured to be included in this group of women. Everyone was so clever and funny. There were insightful thoughts all around, and plenty of rallying cries to the audience to get out there and start their own adventure. It also heartened Waverly that she had followers in the audience, as evidenced by the small amount of cheering that happened after every time she said something.

The moderator had asked them a question about what kept them going. What was it that had them putting their gear back on, going out, and coming back to write about it again and again? Surely there were easier, more comfortable ways to live a life.

“A lot of my motivation comes from knowing there are people out there who feel an even stronger itch to be constantly moving.” Nicole gestured at the thru-hiker on the panel. “I go out and do what I do because I seek adventure, but I also want to understand why other humans do, and how it benefits us as a species. We’re a curious, exploring kind.” Nicole leaned back in her seat and casually crossed her legs. “Pick any fish out of the ocean, and I guarantee you that it had never looked at land and thought, ‘I wonder what it’s like to be there.’ Nor has a chimp lost sleep about wondering what it could find at the bottom of the sea.

“But humans? Humans are constantly wanting to be in places that they’re not built for. It’s a consequence of our advanced intelligence. And yes, a lot of the time it puts us in danger, but admit it—we love it! We live for it! People wouldn’t be skydiving or bungee jumping or rock climbing if they didn’t feel like they were defying the odds,” Nicole continued. “So yeah, that’s why I keep going out there. I want to understand that. Maybe I never will, but the experience is half the fun.”

The audience clapped, and Waverly chose that moment to jump in.

“I considered myself an explorer even before I picked up a trowel. I’m always chasing after what I don’t know,” she began. “I like the feeling of getting to experience something new. I have to admit, I’m not as adventurous as you ladies.” The women around the table gave her encouraging smiles. “But when I go out there, it’s because I know that I’m going to learn something. The best part is that knowledge is infinite. I’m never going to run out of things that I don’t know. There’s always something more.”

***

As soon as the panel finished, Waverly made a beeline for Nicole in the green room. Nicole had just gathered her things and was shrugging her jacket on.

“Hey,” Waverly said.

Nicole looked up from zipping her bag. “Oh, hey.” Waverly couldn’t tell if she looked happy to see her. “You were great out there today.”

“Really?”

“Yep. Expect a few new readers,” Nicole said.

They stared at each other for a good few seconds, not knowing what to say. Waverly scratched the back of her neck. “Uh, Nicole, do you want to get a coffee? I want to talk to you,” she said.

They ended up in a coffee shop a couple of blocks away. It was afternoon in Vancouver, and the weather was at that stalemate between spring and summer. The clouds were out, but it was muggy, save for the occasional gust of wind that had everyone on the street flipping up their collars to shield against it.

Waverly ordered soy lattes for her and Nicole. She started bouncing her leg as she sat down. Upon realising this, she stopped it by crossing her ankles. She didn’t know why she was so restless.

“How was Ireland?” she asked her.

“It was lovely. Nice locals. Lots of hills,” Nicole said. “I’m working on article for Outside magazine on bike touring there.” She stirred sugar into her coffee. “I spent a couple of days in Northern Ireland as well. I’m considering writing something about borders.”

“Borders?”

Nicole shook her head. “Uh, I know it’s well-trod ground, given the last few years, but maybe I’ll find a fresh take on it,” she said.

“Oh no, I’m not challenging you,” Waverly said. “I’m sure whatever you come up with will be great.”

“You said you wanted to talk to me about something,” Nicole said.

“Yes.” Waverly shifted in her seat. “I wanted to talk about what happened that night at your place, and what happened after.”

“Waverly, I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t have put you in that position,” Nicole said. “I understand why you stopped talking to me.”

Waverly’s brows furrowed. “What do you mean ‘in that position’?”

Nicole sighed. “I feel like, by inviting you over at my place, just the two of us, I had put you under pressure, and you felt like I was expecting something from you,” she said. “All I wanted was to enjoy your company. I wasn’t expecting anything from you. I’m sorry that I made you feel that way.”

“Nicole, what are you talking about? I was the one who kissed you.”

But Nicole looked uncharacteristically torn, and seemed to not be listening to Waverly. She was a far cry from the smooth-talking woman onstage not even an hour earlier. “I didn’t know if you were interested in me that way and I didn’t want you to pick up on it and you know, try to make feel better because you’re so nice -”

Nicole .” Waverly placed a hand on Nicole’s wrist, to stop her from rambling. “Hey, look at me.”

Their eyes met, and Waverly’s nerves returned.

“I- I wanted to kiss you,” she stammered, her voice much quieter.

Nicole’s eyes widened. “You did?” she asked.

“I did.” Waverly nodded. “I couldn’t stop thinking about kissing you. I wanted to know what it felt like.”

“And what did it feel like?”

“It felt right,” Waverly said.

Nicole had broken off eye contact with her. She was looking out the window, taking measured breaths.

“Don’t you agree?” Waverly asked her. “Please tell me you agree.”

“Yeah.” Nicole turned her head to look at Waverly. There was something different in her gaze, as if she was seeing Waverly for the first time. “It did feel very right.”

“And you know,” Waverly shrugged, “I kind of want to try it again.”

***

They were back at Nicole’s place.

They somehow managed to keep their hands off each other on the ferry and the bus ride there, but the nervous energy came to a head as soon as Nicole clicked the locks shut on her front door.

Nicole put her bag on the floor. “I’m gonna make tea,” she said.

“No.” Waverly’s bag dropped too, as she reached out to put her arms around Nicole’s neck. They crashed together, Nicole’s hands finding her waist and travelling up her back. Together, they staggered into the lounge and fell over onto the couch, Waverly on top of Nicole.

After what seemed like a long time, they broke apart, lips swollen and breathing heavily. Waverly felt like her body was on fire. Being with Nicole was still as intoxicating as it was the first time it happened. She enjoyed how much she could feel Nicole wanting her. The way she gripped at her hips and back like she wanted their bodies to melt together. The way she murmured unintelligibly between kisses. The way she used her teeth and tongue to get whimpers out of Waverly. It made Waverly dizzy.

When they managed to get themselves calm, Nicole suggested ordering dinner and got up to call the local Greek delivery place. The food arrived soon after, and they sat together on the couch, enjoying each other’s company, music playing softly from Nicole’s speakers.

“We should go out for dinner sometime,” Nicole said.

Waverly smiled coyly. “Aren’t we having dinner already?” she asked.

“No, I want to take you out on a proper date,” Nicole said. “To be honest, I’m kind of sick of just seeing you at festivals.”

“Well, we do live in the same city,” Waverly said.

“Exactly.” Nicole slapped her knee for emphasis. “So, what do you say, Waverly Earp? Do you want to go on a date with me?”

 

 

vii

The Homestead

–one year later

The retreat was a little different this year. It had never really been a retreat. Waverly was there every year and though Wynonna had every room furnished with ergonomic writing desks and comfortable chairs, Waverly hadn’t known anyone who sat at theirs long enough to be able to say that they had been to a writers’ retreat. That wasn’t Wynonna’s intention anyway. She never invited anyone who took themselves too seriously. She just wanted to have fun.

But this year, it was different because Wynonna hadn’t bothered trying to find other authors. It was just her usual crowd of Dolls and John Henry. Nicole was there, too, along with Rosita and Jeremy. Gus and Curtis had driven in from their house in town to join them for the evening. And Perry had flown in from wherever he was.

After everyone had finished their food, Wynonna had brought out a couple of bottles of champagne, which Dolls and John Henry helped her pour into flutes and distribute to everyone. Wynonna stood at the head of the table, her blue eyes glinting in the light. Conversations were put on hold as all eyes landed on her. She had the kind of presence that demanded attention.

“I want to propose a toast to Doctor Waverly Earp, who has not only successfully submitted her thesis, but has also been offered a deal for a second book!” Wynonna paused for a moment, thinking. “Everything I was, everything I’ve become, and everything I am yet to do is all because of you, baby girl.” She raised her glass. “To Waverly.”

“To Waverly,” the table echoed.

Waverly sat there, basking in the attention, watching everyone take a sip of their champagne. She giggled as Nicole pressed her lips against her cheek. The last year had been a whirlwind. Cheryl Strayed had managed to read her book and posted it on Instagram, and soon enough, numerous other celebrities were doing the same. She wasn’t on her way to being a millionaire, but that didn’t matter. People wanted her to write another book! And Perry had only been happy to oblige. At the end of the summer, Waverly would be heading to Alaska to start researching.

Nicole had agreed to visit her whenever possible. Of course, Waverly would come down to Vancouver regularly, as well. Nicole was swamped with work too, after a star-making turn brought about by an article she published in New York Magazine , about Western society’s contentious relationship with borders.

“Remind me what the new book is going to be about again, Waverly,” John Henry prompted. Waverly couldn’t blame him for being out of the loop. Netflix had just announced that they were adapting one of his books as a series.

“It’s about women during the Klondike Gold Rush,” Waverly said. “I’ve been invited to join a dig there and I’m concentrating on the items that were used by the women there. I’ve always felt like their stories haven’t been told much, outside of academia.”

Gus smiled proudly. “I’m sure you will do their lives justice, Waverly.”

***

From Waverly’s vantage point on their bed, Nicole was seated at the writing desk across the room. She was wearing a tank top and boyshorts, her long legs crossed at the ankle as she pored over a notebook. She looked up when she felt eyes on her. “Morning, baby,” she said, smiling in that way that made Waverly’s heart do somersaults.

It was the most wonderful sight that Waverly had ever seen. Well, second most wonderful. Nicole was naked in their bed last night, after all.

“What are you doing all the way over there?” Waverly asked.

“I woke up and realised some things aren’t adding up in my notes,” Nicole said. She had started research for a book about travelling Canada by train. “Just wanted to look at it before I forget about it completely.”

“Oh really?” Waverly sat up in bed. The blankets fell down to her stomach, revealing her bare chest. “Why would you forget?”

Nicole licked her lips. She shut the notebook and stood up. She crossed the room and made a show of crawling onto the bed, causing Waverly to laugh, until Nicole was above her, straddling her thighs on the top of the blankets. Her voice was low, breathy: “Because you’re gonna make me forget.”

For the record, Waverly also didn’t remember much of what happened after that. Just the best parts.

***

Afterwards, when they had their fill, they lay back in bed. Nicole was propped up on the pillows, while Waverly was curled into her side. Nicole stroked Waverly’s hair away from her face. “I love you,” she said.

“I love you, too,” Waverly said.

“Move in with me,” Nicole said, in a voice so quiet that Waverly wasn’t sure that she had said it.

“Sorry?”

Nicole spoke in a louder voice. “Move in with me,” she said.

“Nicole -”

“I was just thinking, you’ve graduated, and so have Jeremy and Rosita, and you all have full-time jobs now so you won’t be living in grad housing anymore,” Nicole said. “Why don’t you move in with me?”

“Are you sure it’s not too soon?” Waverly asked.

Nicole shrugged. “When you know, you know,” she said. “I want more of this, Waves.”

“Yeah.” Waverly leaned up to give Nicole a kiss. “I do, too.” She knew that she was going to be away in Alaska, and Nicole travelled a lot anyway, but she was serious with Nicole, and decided right there and then that she wanted to spend every night with her, as long as they were in the same city.

Hope lit up Nicole’s eyes. “So is that a yes?”

Yes ,” Waverly said. “Let’s live together.”

***

Canada’s literary power couple wrote the sweetest dedications to each other!

The internet’s favourite archaeologist Waverly Earp and fiery adventure gal Nicole Haught, who happen to be in love with each other, just released new books this fall.

But this isn’t about their books! It’s about their dedications!

In No Room for Vanity: Women of the Klondike , Earp wrote:

For Nicole–anywhere with you is home

And in All Aboard , Haught penned this:

To Waverly–I’ll always choose the adventure with you

Be still our beating hearts! Just how hard do you ship them?