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It was spring. Regeneration was in the air. Parks and gardens across the city were aglow with dazzlingly beautiful massed displays of azaleas, rhododendrons, and an astonishing number of spring-flowering bulbsgorgeous oriental lilies, iris, hyacinth, heavily scented freesias and jonquils, golden daffodils. Sensual perfumes hung over the city like a bride's fine tulle veil. The sky had the blue lustre of an opal, and a few puffy white clouds raced on high.
Genevieve Grenville was near skipping along herself, since the current of her life had picked up. It wasn't all that long ago since she had found herself at a very low point in her life. But that had been then. This was nowthe future. Being positive, counting your blessings was the key. Move on and lock down the humiliating past. Pretty soon she just might be able to.
Her career was helping enormously. She was now a published writer, with a bestseller under her belt. She was certain her literary agent and editor, good friend Maggie McGuire, would have approved the final draft of her new book, Lovers and Losers. She was deeply indebted to Maggie for her belief in her, and her expert guidance. Maggie had been with her every step of the way. That included the woeful state of her private life that had left her wondering why she had any ego left.
Her debut novel, Secrets of the Past, had saved her, buoying her up. The hardback was doing a celebratory jig in her tote bag as she strode along, fired up with energy. It was a tremendous confidence booster to know that at twenty-seven she was making a name for herself in the literary world. When one was on a roll one had to stick with it; hence Lovers and Losers as her quick follow-up.
The reviews for Secrets of the Past had been thrillingly good "A first-rate literary debut "
"A bright new star has appeared on the horizon " Couldn't beat that. Even more gratifying was the incoming feedback from her readers. One couldn't be a successful writer without one's readership. She had encountered many of her readers wanting to express their appreciation. It was always a pleasure, even a humbling experience, when someone mentioned that reading her book had helped them through a small crisis or a bad patch in their lives.
Genevieve knew all about bad patches.
Secrets of the Past had even made an impact sufficient to carry a well-known magazine's gold sticker: GREAT READ. What better plug could she want? It had come at exactly the right time.
Her ex-fiance, Mark Reedthe man she had entrusted with her life's happinesshad given in to temptation and slept with the young woman most off-limits in the world to him: her stepsister Carrie-Anne. Carrie-Anne was to have been her chief bridesmaid, for God's sake! She and Mark had been practically at the altar. She didn't think she would ever get over the treachery. The pain of betrayal still burned in her breast. Nor could she entirely control the image of the two of them naked in bed. They had taken something from her she would never get back.
But she was over the worst of it. Stiff upper lip and all that.
Writing was her solace. She had learned that living with pain, setbacks, and disappointments was what life was all about. If she had been less trusting she would have recognised pocket-size blonde Carrie-Anne's destructive potential. She had always been a devious little creature.
Mark's excuse took the cake. "It was a moment of madness, Gena. It's you I love. But Carrie-Anne is always trying to get one up on you. It's your own fault, in a way. You didn't make enough time for me. Always the damned book!"
What a cop-out! She had always made time for him, but she accepted the fact that spoilt rotten Mark had really wanted a woman like Mum, who spoke like a character in a Victorian novel and lived her life dancing attendance on her husband and her adored only son. Mrs Reed had once referred to it as a "noble sacrifice".
"Just hormones, Gena." That had been Carrie-Anne's excuse, her delicious little face contorted by crippling remorse. "Hormones. They're so dangerous!"
"Try sky-diving.." Genevieve had advised caustically. "Without a parachute. Better yet, take Mark."
There were no excuses for despicable behaviour.
Her appointment with Maggie was scheduled for three o'clock. She had never been known to arrive late. When she did arrive there were two hopefuls waiting. Going to Maggie's was much like going to the doctor's. One could be assured of a wait. Maggie's receptionist Rhoda, a large, flat-faced woman, darted a disapproving glance in her direction. She might have been a full thirty minutes late, or committed the cardinal sin of turning up without an appointment.
"Good afternoon, Rhoda." Genevieve gave the dragon lady a brilliant smile.
Rhoda did not respond. No surprise there. But she did condescend to point a finger at a seat. Here was a woman who wouldn't win any votes for Receptionist of the Year.
With a smile and a nod to the other two hopefuls, Genevieve found a seat on the other side of the room, so she could take out Secrets of the Past and appreciate it all over again. She liked the cover. It depicted a beautiful young woman's downbent face above her pen-name: Michelle Laurent. It was the maiden name of her French-born paternal grandmother. "Michelle Laurent" was set in large letters above the title. So much better to have it above than beneath. Such an attractive-looking book would draw attention. She had seen it prominently displayed in a bookshop inside a major shopping mall she had cut through on her way over to Maggie's.
Secrets of the Past had been written at night, when she'd still been teaching English and French at her old Alma Matera prestigious college for girls. She had enjoyed her years of teaching since university, but as soon as her writing career had taken off she'd found herself in the enviable position of being able to write full-time. Her beloved Michelle's handsome legacy had made that possible.
Grandmere Michelle had started to teach her French at toddler stage. She had always given love, support and endless encouragement. To Genevieve's grief Michelle had died very suddenly of complications following a severe bout of influenza. That had been a short time before the manuscript for Secrets of the Past had been completed. It was balm to know Michelle had pored over its drafts and offered valuable insights, which Genevieve had wisely acted upon. Maggie often said Michelle was a better editor than she wasand Maggie was the best.
Genevieve had fully intended using her own name, but that all had changed when Michelle died. To her readership she was Michelle Laurent. A tribute to her beloved grandmother. Her father had entrusted her to Michelle after her mother
Celine had been killed in a catastrophic five-car pile-up on the freeway. Genevieve had been ten at the time. Her devastated father had taken a few years before remarrying the divorced socialite Sable Carville. Sable had brought her glamorous, much-photographed self to the marriage, along with her little girl, the adorable Shirley Temple lookalike Carrie-Anne, who soon took her stepfather's surname Grenville.
So there they had beenthe two little Grenville girls, Genevieve and Carrie-Anne. One tall for her age and gawky to boot, with an unmanageable mane of red hair and freckles, the other the adorable Carrie-Anne, always exquisitely turned out by her fashion-plate mother. Genevieve hadn't received the same attention. Not much point spending time on a stepdaughter who didn't fit the description of "pretty". Only her father, a blue chip lawyer, had foreseen the day when the awkward cygnet would turn into a swan like her mother.
Her maternal grandparents were seldom in the country. After the death of their beloved only child they had become world-travellers, never staying anywhere for long. In their own way they were on the run from the tragedy, and from other family tragedies that reached back decades.
A very intense young man with a mop of bushy hair was being ushered out through Maggie's door, shaking his head in disbelief. From the expression of confusion and outrage on his face, he had discovered his prized manuscript hadn't been short-listed for the Booker Prize.
Maggie saw him off with an encouraging, "Keep at it, Colin." It was like a benign pat on the head. One of the other hopefuls spluttered into laughter. That was a bit unkind. Maggie jiggled her fingers at the two waiting hopefuls, and then gave Genevieve a big smile. "Come on in, Gena."
Genevieve gathered up her tote bag.
Maggie's office was very spacious, attesting to her success. The floor was carpeted wall to wall in neutral beige, with a luxurious oriental rug. Her desk was substantialmahogany with curved legs. Two cream leather armchairs were placed in front of it, and there was a separate seating area with a sofa and armchairs grouped around a glass-topped coffee table. Three of the walls were lined with floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with a lot of leather-bound books with gold lettering on their spines. A large portrait of a very handsome man took pride of place directly behind Maggielooking over her shoulder, as it were. Most people were allowed to believe it was a family portrait, but Maggie had confessed after a drink or two that she'd bought it because it looked like Sir Richard Hadlee, the famous New Zealand cricket player, in his prime. Maggie had made Genevieve promise not to tell anyone.
Waving a hand towards some point on the ceiling, Maggie moved behind her desk. It was littered with so many manuscripts Genevieve always wondered how Maggie could work in such a shambles. Genevieve took a seat, depositing her tote bag on the floor.
Maggie reached for the glasses she was too vain to wear in public. "We've got a cracker here, Gena." She slapped a satisfied hand on top of the thick manuscript. "I thoroughly enjoyed it. Your readers will too. A stirring talegreat romance, extremely touching in places, all those amazing insights, and your usual clever twists."
Genevieve's heart lifted. "I'm glad you like it, Maggie. I owe a lot to you."
"Maybe a bit," Maggie conceded. "But you're a born writer."
"I've always had a compulsion to write going back to my childhood."
"Of course, deara prerequisite." Maggie looked up to smile. Maggie smiled oftenunlike Rhoda. "So what next?" Maggie asked.
Genevieve shifted back in her chair "I think I'll take a break, Maggie. A complete change of scenemaybe six months or so. I've been going at it pretty intensively, as you know. Losing my grandmother hit me very hard, and then there was the debacle of my engagement."
"You're well rid of him," Maggie huffed. Maggie never kept her strong opinions to herself. "So he was a good-looking charmer? He turned out to be a traitor. As for that treacherous creature Carrie-Anne!" Maggie threw up her hands in disgust.
"I'm over it, Maggie," Genevieve said. Well, not completely. A double betrayal was hard to take.
"As I've told you before, dear, you've had a lucky break. Thinkit could have happened after you were married. He could have betrayed you zillions of times over a lifetime. Honest to God, it brings tears to my eyes. Success puts men off, you know, love," she confided for the umpteenth time. "I should know."
Maggie had been twice married, twice divorced. Now she was eyeing Genevieve speculatively across the table, her pearly white teeththe result of expensive cosmetic worksinking into her bottom lip.
"You wouldn't consider a break in our fabled Outback, would you?" She asked on the off-chance, with no real expectation of Gena's saying yes. "You'd be staying on a famous cattle station in the Channel Country. It's owned and run by one of our most prominent landed families. I can line someone else up, but I thought you could handle it. Have a well-earned holiday as wellrecharge the batteries, maybe get inspiration?
Out of nowhere Genevieve experienced one of those moments of searing awareness that came like a thunderclap. She didn't understand what prompted these moments, but she had come to think of them as a window opening up in her mind.
"What are we talking about here, Maggie? A working holiday?" Her voice sounded calm, but there was a betraying tension in her face.
Maggie's alert brown eyes sharpened. She hadn't missed a bit of it, though she pretended not to notice. "That's it exactly." Maggie could sense Gena's inner disturbance, even if there didn't appear to be any apparent reason for it. "If you're interested, of course, Gena. Should be a piece of cake for you, with the bonus of an Outback holiday."
"More information?" Genevieve requested, knowing in advance what Maggie was going to say. It had been long recognised by the family that Michelle had had an extra sense. She had inherited it. No denying genetics.
"Of course, dear." Maggie lowered her eyes, giving Gena a little time to gather herself from that all too brief moment ofwhat, exactly? "A senior member of the familyTrevelyan is the name, Miss Hester Trevelyan, who's had the sense to avoid marriageneeds a ghost writer to help with the family history. That would be from colonial days. And she might want to bring in their illustrious Cornish family background. Richard Trevelyan emigrated to the free colony of South Australia in the mid-1800s. We know there was a big influx of Cornish migrants from the mid-nineteenth century right up until after World War II. It was actively encouraged by the government, I believe."
Genevieve made a real effort to calm her agitation. "After the demise of their tin and copper mines. Cornish mines were known to traders as far back as ancient Greece. It was thought that with their wealth of experience and expertise Australia was the place to come for mining families. The New Worlda new beginning. We still refer to Yorke Peninsula in South Australia as 'Little Cornwall'."
"So we do!" Maggie exclaimed. "These Trevelyans have their own family crest."
"How very jolly!"
"The Cornish side of the family did own tin and copper mines, as far as I know, but Richard Trevelyan was the last in a line of sons. He wanted to make his own way, so he decided to found his own dynasty in Australia. Apparently he was more interested in sheep and cattle than in getting involved in the minesthough I believe the Trevelyans are heavily involved in the mining industry. Also real estate, hotels, air, rail, and road freight. You name it. A lot of diversification going on there. The current cattle baron is Miss Trevelyan's great-nephew, Bret Trevelyan. Bret short for Bretton, I guess. Bit of information on him: he's just thirty, still unmarried, one of the most eligible bachelors in the country. He was once engaged to the daughter of another well-heeled landed family, the Rawleighs. Obviously the grand romance and the unification of two dynasties fell through. His parents divorced when he was in his early teens. An acrimonious split, I believe. The mother ran off with a family friendtsk, tsk. The father never remarried. He was killed in a bizarre shooting accident on the station. Apparently a guest's rifle discharged when he was climbing over a fence. I don't know the full story. There's a younger brother, Derryl, and a sister, Romayne. Romayne married the Ormond shipping heir two years backremember? It was a big society wedding. Got a lot of coverage."
"I remember." Genevieve sat quietly. She knew all about the Trevelyan family.