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A NineStar Press Publication

Published by NineStar Press

P.O. Box 91792,

Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87199 USA.

Candlelight Kisses

Copyright © 2017 by Elna Holst

Cover Art by Natasha Snow Copyright © 2017

Edited by: Jason Bradley

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact NineStar Press at the physical or web addresses above or at

Printed in the USA

First Edition

December, 2017

Warning: This book contains sexually explicit content, which may only be suitable for mature readers.

Candlelight Kisses

Elna Holst

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

About the Author

Chapter One

Malmö, Sweden, 1994

There wasn’t even any snow yet. Where she sat waiting for the bus that would take her to her unwished-for destination, Erika studied the grey wet-looking square that spread before her. The large oaks and beech trees, assiduously preserved in the middle of the tarmac and concrete vista, looked spare and suffering in the absence of the lush leaves and jolly sprouts that made them such a cheery sight during the warmer seasons.

It was an in-between time. In between a rock and a hard place, faced with the option of a month in jail or forty hours of community service, the choice of community service had seemed self-evident to Erika. She’d rather thought she was performing a community service when she was arrested. The judge, unfortunately, had thought differently.

Slumping back against the Perspex wall of the bus shelter, Erika moved her focus up to the billboard that crowned the roof of the old bank building on the opposite side of the square. She couldn’t keep the small satisfied smile from crossing her lips. The girls were keeping busy. Good on them.

The billboard had, until just last night, portrayed a scantily-clad glamour model with a wasp-like waist and a rack to rival the most blown-up pair of knockers ever to grace the chest of an up-and-coming porn actress. Officially, it had been put up to sell lingerie during the impending consumerist extravaganza known as the holiday season. In reality, what it was doing was keeping young women fettered to unrealistic bodily ideals, thereby diverting their attention from the prison of patriarchy they willingly submitted to, and effectively turning them into their own enthusiastic jailers.

It was time to fight back. Someone had to. And until she had been caught in the act, as it were, hands red with telltale graffiti paint, Erika had considered herself to be an active and forceful part of that resistance.

If you screwed up your eyes, you could still see, kind of, who it was up there on the billboard. Albeit the addition of a green-and-purple scarf and a big, shapeless woolly jumper made her bedchamber facial expression look oddly out of place. The message sprayed on top of where the chain store’s logo had been was low-key and simple: Stay warm and eat until you’re full this season. Erika’s chest expanded as she read it. Pure brilliance. That had to be Mia’s contribution.

A general commotion among the handful of people present at the bus stop at this hour heralded the arrival of the green city bus. With close to physical aversion, Erika rose from her seat and got on.

Just another ten minutes of freedom, and then she would be on-site to start working off her sentence, which at the moment felt like far worse a punishment than being locked up and out of the way for, say, the month of December. Regrettably, she hadn’t been allowed to go back on her decision. There had been more than a touch of gloating in the smile of her assigned administrative officer when he had given her the details of where exactly she would be doing her bit for society.

“You’re joking!” she’d blurted out, and the very tips of her shock-red Mohican were bristling for good effect.

“I’m a civil servant,” he had informed her evenly, the merest glint in his eye betraying the pleasure he took in the exchange. “We don’t joke.”

“But…but…” Erika had spluttered eloquently.

But nothing. That had been that.

“Honestly, I don’t know why you’re making such a big deal out of it.”

Mia had pulled her washed-out Ramones T-shirt on over her naked torso, removing it too quickly from Erika’s appreciative gaze.

Erika groaned. “It goes against everything we stand for. For fuck’s sake, we sabotaged the Miss Sweden finals only last spring!”

“Yeah.” Mia condescended to give her one of those sexy, lopsided smirks that invariably shot straight to Erika’s groin. “Good times. Look, Rickie, I’m not saying I don’t sympathize. I’m just saying: suck it up. You made your choice. You could have gone for prison like Helena.”

Erika turned her face away. Her hands were balled into fists; she relaxed them and reached for her own ratty once-was-white tee.

“So, will I see you tonight?” She’d meant it to come out as a casual, offhand inquiry, but the question hung in the air, dripping with cloying romantic hopefulness.

Mia got up from the sofa bed where they’d been spending the last two hours and sauntered over to the old 70s-style fridge in the kitchenette. She brought out a can of beer and held up another one, enquiringly, to Erika. Erika shook her head. Her throat felt suddenly too constricted to get anything down it.

Mia opened her own can with a satisfying fizz and took a swig.

“I’m going out with Helle tonight. You know that.”

“Sorry, I forgot to check your busy schedule.” She bit her cheek, swearing inwardly. There went her chances of getting laid again anytime soon.

“You know, Rickie, for all your red Mohican, radical dyke exterior, you can be insufferably bourgeois at times.”

Mia was at the door, donning her second-hand biker’s jacket and stepping into her Docs. She raised her beer can in a goodbye gesture.

“Thanks,” she said, and Erika wasn’t sure if she was thanking her for the beer or the sex. Same thing, really. Whatever Mia wanted at the moment, she took. “I’ll see you around, okay?”

“Sure,” Erika breathed as the door closed behind her pack-leader-cum-intermittent-fuck-buddy, leaving the premises without a backward glance.

The building of the woman’s weekly magazine where she was to spend most of her spare time from now until the 13th of December, approximately, had a dark uninspiring brown-brick façade. The sign on top was lit up in gaudy two-metre-high letters, the name evoking uncomfortable memories of her great-grandmother’s hospital bedside.

Doing community service at a for-profit organization wasn’t usually on par, but the magazine was only a sponsor. The Malmö Lucia contest was for the good of the city, a charity effort and time-honoured tradition from beginning to end.

An end, Erika hoped as she pushed her way through the murky-coloured glass-and-metal door, that would be swift in coming.

“As you know, Erika, the Latin word lux means light. The 13th of December is, coincidentally, the darkest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere according to the Julian calendar.”

Erika didn’t know that lux meant light. She should have known, she supposed, but she had spent the greater part of her school days engaged in feminist activism.

She was pretty sure, though, that the tiresome, nattering woman of about her mother’s age didn’t have a firm grip on what constituted a coincidence.

“Are you listening to me?”

The piercing icy blues of Margareta—call me Maggan—Svensson turned on her and narrowed in disapproval.

Lux means light,” Erika muttered. “Got it.”

Maggan, it seemed, would not let her off the hook.

It’s important to us that everyone involved in the contest and proceeding festivities knows what St Lucy is all about.”

“She was a Roman-Catholic saint, but we adopted her, for some reason—oh, and then there’s saffron buns.”

Maggan failed to be diverted.

Lux means light,” Erika repeated, and the poor woman looked as though she was getting ready to slap her, but, reluctantly, thought better of it.

“As I was saying…” She went on and opened another one of the seemingly interminable line of doors they had to pass through to get to wherever it was they were going.

Erika zoned out. Maggan’s droning voice was making it entirely too easy.

It wasn’t like she’d never celebrated the Feast of Saint Lucy before. Back in communal day care, every little girl was taught to dream of being chosen as St Lucia that year. The implication, though tacit and fiercely denied by all adults involved, was that the Lucy-elect was the prettiest girl in class, and later maybe even the prettiest girl at the whole school. The voting was a harrowing, gut-wrenching experience, which left a sometimes indelible imprint on the little girls’ psyches.

Erika could truthfully say that she’d never aspired to the title. Like the boys, she’d been too caught up in objectifying the girls around her, too inclined to watch rather than be watched. She didn’t want to be St Lucia. She wanted to fuck her—notwithstanding that the word wasn’t really part of her vocabulary back then, let alone the act itself, which she had vaguely gleaned to be something akin to what the moose and the squirrels were doing during mating season on the biweekly Mitt i naturen nature show.

No, what she had wanted was to have her, to take her home and keep her in her room, always, to hug her and kiss her. And yeah, she might not have had a word for it, nor have been of an age to act on her lurid desires, but deep down, she wasn’t going to deny to herself what those turbulent nascent emotions boiled down to.

It was just—well, she’d grown up to become a feminist, and not one of the slick lipstick-lesbian variety. She was the kind who trashed beauty contests, who graffitied over Anna Nicole Smith’s tits on H&M billboards, and who fucked people mainly as a political statement.

“Are you going to wear your hair like that the entire time you are with us?”

Automatically, Erika’s hand went up to feel the stiff rise of her Mohican. She bit back an acerbic retort and answered as diplomatically as she could.

“No better way to wear it, really.”

Maggan’s eyes flew to the shaved sides of her head.

“No,” she conceded. “I suppose not. The things you girls get into your heads these days… Well, here we are, finally.”

The editor of the woman’s weekly, turned Lucy general extraordinaire, opened one last windowed office door and stood aside to let Erika pass through.

Erika,” she said, a tone of formality seeping into her otherwise distinctly chirpy, upbeat voice. “I’d like you to meet your Lucia candidate, Padma Lindgren. Padma, this is Erika… Oh, sorry dear, what was your last name again?”

Erika was staring. She knew she was, and she knew she had been asked a question, which she should respond to, but damn. Double damn, with whipped cream and cherries on top.

The dark, fit woman of obvious Indian-or-thereabouts descent smiled a full eye-scorching thousand-watt smile and came to her rescue.

“Stolt, I think,” she said, holding out her hand as if she were greeting a new business partner.

On pure reflex, Erika took it and held it in hers.

“If I remember correctly?”

Erika nodded mutely. The hand shaking hers was firm, warm, dry. Hers was cold and clammy.

“Hello, Padma.”

“Hello, Erika.” The brightness of her smile, if at all possible, intensified. “It’s nice to see you again.”

“Yes,” Erika stammered. “Nice.”

Lux means light. You could say that again.

Chapter Two

“So you know her?” Fiffi rooted around after the fruit-flavoured infusions she typically favoured in the jar of mixed tea bags on Erika’s countertop. There was only one, blackcurrant, left. Wrinkling up her buttonlike nose in distaste, Fiffi opted for silverte instead: hot water, milk, and sugar. Though, what with Erika being a vegan and all, there was only rice milk to come by.

“Honestly!” Fiffi sighed, replaced the carton, and carried her brimming mug over to the sofa bed—now firmly a sofa—where Erika was sitting, nursing a cup of chamomile close to her chest.

“I don’t know about know. Knew, I guess, though that’s verging on overstating it.”

Fiffi sipped at her beverage and stuck out her tongue at her.

“Always the mysterious one! I bet that’s what Mia finds so irresistible about you. Is she an old flame of yours? This Padma, I mean? A two-ships-pass-in-the-night type of thing?”

“Hardly,” Erika scoffed, though she was uncomfortably aware of a slight twinge in her nether regions at the suggestion. “We were at school together. Or, like, she was a year above me. I haven’t seen her since I turned thirteen. It’s a miracle she recognized me!”

It was a miracle. Erika at twelve-going-on-thirteen had been an awkward, prepubescent tomboy, with an inconvenient amount of baby fat, stainless steel braces, and heavy-framed jar-bottom glasses. She’d been reading Tolkien, hanging out with the nerdy boys. Dyke-in-the-making, as they usually termed it.

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