- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
She was wearing white, for crying out loud.
Jack Lewis grimaced as the elegant figure stepped down from the tiny plane while clouds of red dust slowly settled on the airstrip. The same red dust covered his ute, his riding boots, and practically everything else in the outback, and yet Senator Elizabeth Green had chosen to arrive on Savannah cattle station dressed from head to toe in blinding, laundry-commercial white.
Her elegant sandals were white, her crisply ironed trousers, her matching linen top and even her floppy-brimmed hat. The only non-white items were her accessories—swanky dark glasses and a pale green leather shoulder bag that clearly held a laptop.
Where did she think she'd flown to? The flaming Italian Riviera?
Jack muttered a soft oath, audible only to Cobber, the cattle dog at his heels. 'I suppose we'd better go and say g'day.'
Shrugging off an uncomfortable sense of martyrdom, Jack set out across the stretch of dirt, moving with a deliberately easy amble, his faithful dog close behind him.
He was mad with himself for allowing his boss, an eighty-year-old widow, to bully him into hosting this visitor. Kate Burton regularly tested Jack's patience by directing her business via long-distance phone calls from her top-price-tag retirement home in Melbourne.
'I owe Lizzie a favour,' Kate had told him breezily. 'She won't be any trouble, Jack. She just wants to rest up and take in the country air, and she needs to retreat from the public eye for a spell. You understand, don't you?'
After a lifetime of getting her own way, Kate hadn't given Jack the chance to protest that no, he didn't understand, that he was managing her cattle station not a hotel, that the mustering season had started and he was planning to join the team.
For her part, Kate made no attempt to explain why a high-profile senator, the darling of the Canberra media, was suddenly diving for cover in distant North Queensland.
Kate had left Jack with no choice but to send out the mustering team while he remained behind at the homestead. This morning he'd dutifully rounded up the horses grazing in this paddock, and he'd flattened the anthills that had popped up on the airstrip since the last time a light plane had landed here.
Now, as he approached his guest, she straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin—her very neat and determined chin.
Her shady white hat and dark glasses hid the top half of her face, but Jack sensed her surprise, as if he wasn't quite what she'd expected.
He was having the same problem—madly readjusting his assumptions. Up close, Senator Elizabeth Green was a bombshell.
He'd seen photos of her in newspapers, of course, and he was aware of her classic Italian good looks, but he'd expected the real-life version to be closer to Iron Maiden than Sophia Loren. Surely this woman was too soft and sensuous to be a federal politician?
Jack could see curves beneath her crisp white linen clothes—old-fashioned, reach-out-and-touch-me curves.
Her dark hair was tucked up under her hat, but silky wisps had strayed onto her nape, drawing his attention to her super-smooth, pale skin with a dusky hint of the Mediterranean.
As for her mouth…
Whoa. Her mouth was wide and full and soft and sultry, quite possibly the sexiest mouth Jack had ever met.
Her mouth moved. 'Mr Lewis?'
It took Jack a second or two to get his brain on the right track.
'Good morning, Senator.' He spoke a little too loudly. 'Welcome to Savannah.'
He wondered if she was going to offer her hand. Her big hat and sunglasses hid so much of her that he found it hard to pick up clues, but he sensed she was still checking him out, trying to make as many correct assumptions as possible.
When at last she offered her hand, it was cool and slim, her grip firm.
'I have luggage.' Despite the faint Italian accent, when the senator spoke she was Iron Maiden through and through.
Reassured that he knew what he was dealing with, Jack waved to the pilot. 'I'll get the luggage, Jim.'
In the hold, he found two large and perfectly matched green leather suitcases—Louis Vuitton, of course—and a matching leather holdall filled with books. When he hefted the strap over his shoulder, the books weighed a ton.
'I see you plan to do a little light reading,' he said, offering her a grin.
The senator gave a slight shrug, as if it was obvious that she'd have little else to do out here except improve her mind.
Reducing his grin to a resigned smile, Jack waved to the pilot, then picked up the suitcases. Hell, judging by the weight of them, she planned to move in to Savannah for six months. Or longer. Kate Burton had been vague about the length of this visitor's stay.
'We'd better get going before Jim takes off and creates another dust storm.' Jack nodded in the direction of his parked ute. 'The limousine's this way.'
Again, Senator Green didn't acknowledge Jack's attempt at a joke. Instead, she looked over at the vehicle covered in dust and then gazed slowly about her, taking in the wide and empty red plains dotted sparsely with clumps of grey-green grass, and at the sky, huge, blue and cloudless. Boundless.
A lone crow's cry pierced the stillness. Ark, ark, ark!
Watching his guest closely, Jack saw her take a breath as if she were bracing herself for an ordeal. He had no interest in her problems or why she'd come here, yet to his dismay he felt a faint pang of sympathy.
They set off for the ute and by the time they reached it—a matter of sixty metres or so—Senator Green's sandals were filmed with red dust and a faint red rim showed at the bottom of her pristine trousers.
Her mouth pursed with sour-lemon tightness as she watched Jack set her glamorous luggage next to bales of fencing wire in the tray back of his battered ute.
'Hope you weren't expecting anything too flash.' He opened the passenger door, saw dog hairs on the seat, and, despite an urge to leave them there, swept the seat clean with the brim of his Akubra hat.
'Thank you,' the senator said in a princess-speaking-to-the-footmen tone.
Jack wished he hadn't bothered.
'How far is it to the homestead?' she asked.
'Not far. A couple of kilometres.'
She nodded, but chose not to comment.
'In the back, Cobber,' Jack ordered, and his dog obediently jumped up beside the pale green luggage. 'And you'd better fasten your seat belt,' he told his passenger as he swung into the driver's seat. 'It's bound to be a bumpy ride.'
Lizzie sat in grim silence as the ute set off across the trackless ground. She was grateful that Jack didn't try to carry on a conversation, yelling above the roar of the motor. He seemed happy enough to drive while she clung to the panic handle, which she needed more to steady her nerves than because the ride was rough.
She needed to calm down, to throw off the alarming schoolgirl thrill that had flared inside her the instant she'd set eyes on Jack Lewis.
Good grief. It was ridiculous. Laughable. She hadn't felt such an instantaneous, unwarranted reaction to a man for almost a decade. She'd thought she'd developed immunity.
For heaven's sake. It was absurd and distressing to feel this fireworks-in-her-very-veins excitement at the sedate age of forty. It was a joke. She would put her reaction down to surprise. She'd expected Jack Lewis to be older, several decades older, actually.
After her conversation with Kate Burton, she'd had an image of the manager of Savannah as a mature and kindly, grey-haired man of the land. He'd be a little shy perhaps, as rural folk were reputed to be. Reliable, dependable, salt of the earth. A fatherly figure, possibly a bit like her dad.
Lizzie couldn't have been further from the mark.
Jack was young, younger than she was, for sure, and he had all the attributes of a hunky pin-up boy—height, fitness, muscles, glowing health. Throw in sun-bleached hair and sparkling green eyes and a smile that would melt granite, and the man was borderline dangerous.
The silly thing was, Lizzie had met oodles of good-looking men without going weak at the knees, but there was something else about this fellow, something elusive.
Perhaps it was the slow and easy way he moved. She thought about the way he'd approached her with a leisurely, loose-hipped stride, and the effortless way he'd hefted her luggage as though it held nothing but tissue paper. Even the way he drove was relaxed and easy—guiding the steering wheel with one hand, while his other hand rested lightly on the gear stick.
Sex appeal in spades.
No doubt the young women for miles around were all in love with him.
Good grief. She had to stop thinking like this. Now!
Jack Lewis wasn't her type. Not remotely. She was a federal senator, earnest and conscientious—busy, busy, busy. Everything about Jack—his lazy smile and his easy, laid-back body language—showed that his whole attitude to life was different from hers.
Of course, Lizzie knew she shouldn't react to superficial appearances. She'd learned early in her career that if she genuinely wanted to find ways to help people, she had to look below the surface. Things were rarely as they appeared. The truth was always hidden.
As a woman, she also knew that she had a bad habit of falling for the wrong man. Twice in her life, she'd met someone she'd found instantly attractive. Twice she'd been burned, almost reduced to ashes.
Never again. With good reason—two very handsome reasons—she'd made a conscious decision to keep her private life a male-free zone. Men. Just. Weren't. Worth. It.
She'd been relieved to finally step off the dating-rela-tionship merry-go-round, and she couldn't believe she'd wasted so many years trying to choose a life partner. Now she embraced the freedom of going it alone, just as her mother had. In fact, she was taking her independence one step further than her mother had.
The ute bounced and rattled over a cattle grid and Lizzie automatically placed a protective hand over the tiny bulge below her navel.
Hers and only hers.
The past three months had flown so quickly, and, according to the pregnancy books that Lizzie had studied in depth and learned by heart, her baby was already the size of half a banana. It would have tiny fingerprints now, and if it was a little girl, she would have about two million eggs in her ovaries.
'Are you OK?' Jack sent Lizzie a quick look of concern that took in the protective hand on her stomach.
'I'm fine, thank you.' She spoke brusquely. Tension made her brittle and she quickly lifted her hand and fiddled with a stray wisp of hair, tucking it under her hat.
The last thing she wanted was to draw attention to her growing baby bump. Kate Burton had promised not to mention her pregnancy to Jack, and Lizzie certainly didn't want to explain until she got to know him better.
Come to think of it, Lizzie couldn't imagine taking Jack into her confidence. Surely there would be someone else at the homestead, perhaps a kindly housekeeper, who would be happy to indulge in heart-to-heart chats over a cup of tea. She should have asked Kate Burton more questions.
Looking out at the endless stretch of red plains, Lizzie felt her spirits swoop. She was planning to spend at least a month out here in the back of beyond. She needed the break, for the baby's sake, and for sanity's sake, and she surely needed to escape from the hound dogs in the press gallery.
If they caught a sniff of Jack, I'd be in trouble.
The isolation should keep her safe, however, and somehow she would cope.
She planned to keep busy, of course, staying in touch with her office in Brisbane and her parliamentary colleagues in Canberra via her laptop and her mobile phone—her new mobile phone, with a number that she'd only shared with a discreet circle of people she could trust.
In her spare time she would work her way through the supplementary reading matter she'd brought with her. She'd always complained that she never had enough time for reading for pleasure, although once upon a time she'd liked nothing better than losing herself in a good book.
She'd also imagined going for pleasant country walks, except this flat, parched land didn't look very inviting.
'Here's the homestead,' Jack said, pulling up at a gate and pointing ahead through the dusty windscreen.
It was a timber building, long and low, and painted white. It had a dark green, corrugated iron roof, and there were several smaller buildings scattered around it. Sprawled beneath the harsh outback sun, the collection of buildings made Lizzie think of a sleepy dog with a litter of puppies.
Jack sent her a sideways glance loaded with expectation, and she realised she was expected to say something. But what?
There was no garden to admire, although the curving lines of stones cemented together suggested that there might have been gardens in the past. She supposed she would be comfortable enough here, but the house looked very lonely sitting in the middle of the flat empty plains.
She said, 'The house looks…very…nice.'
There was a glimmer of impatience in his glance. What is his problem?
'Do you think you could get the gate?' he asked, super-politely.
'Oh-h-h…the gate.' Lizzie gave a shaky laugh to cover her shock. In Canberra, she had a swipe card that opened doors or gates in a split second, or her staff went ahead of her, smoothing the way. 'You'd like me to open it?'
He gave her a wry smile. 'It's sort of bush tradition. Driver stays at the wheel. Passenger opens the gate. So, if it's not too much trouble.'
This gate proved to be a great deal of trouble.
First Lizzie had to wrestle with the door handle, then she had to clamber down from the ute into several inches of fine red dust that once again covered her sandals and seeped between her bare toes. Finally, she spent an embarrassing age at the gatepost, wrestling with a heavy metal loop and a complicated piece of rusty wire.
Pride wouldn't allow her to give in, but she hadn't a clue how to get the thing open.
A deep and very annoying chuckle brought her whirling around. Jack Lewis had left the truck and was standing close behind her, grinning. 'I guess I'd better show you how it works.'
'I guess you'd better,' she snapped. 'This is the most ridiculous gate I've ever seen. What's the point of making it so difficult? Why can't you have a normal latch?'
'That'd be too easy. Even the cattle could work out how to open it.'
Her response was a disdainful sniff, and she watched him with tightly closed lips as he tilted the metal loop, and, with the swift ease of a conjuring trick, slipped the wire hook free, letting the gate swing easily open.
He winked at her. 'Did you get that?'
Posted January 29, 2013
I liked this story but was left hanging at the end. Will the story continue? What about the babies? It was like a movie that is interesting and you stick with it, only to have it suddenly end & the credits roll....and you are left going...."WHAT?" There had better be a part 2 to this story.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 5, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted March 30, 2012
No text was provided for this review.
Posted September 2, 2010
No text was provided for this review.