Authors: Julie Bozza
Tags: #Gay, #contemporary romance, #gay adult romance
Published by Manifold Press
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Proof–reading and line
editing: F.M. Parkinson
Editor: Fiona Pickles
Text: © Julie Bozza
Cover image: © Instinia
Photography | Dreamstime.com
E–book format: © Manifold
Characters and situations
described in this book are fictional and not intended to portray
real persons or situations whatsoever; any resemblances to living
individuals are entirely coincidental.
For further details
Manifold Press titles both in print
With love to my stalwart
technical advisor, Mr B.
With thanks to the person whose
comment on Goodreads unknowingly inspired this novel.
With love to Pete Murray for his
honest, emotional songwriting and his passionate performances.
gratitude in anticipation of the reader’s tolerance. I wrote some
of this story conscious that I am an outsider looking in at things
some will say don’t concern me. I did so with nothing in my heart
but a love of and a wish for interdependence between all our
peoples – and for that perhaps any infelicities will be
Dave Taylor looked down at
the perfect little human creature he held cradled in his
– delicate skin, warm scent,
fragile bones – and asked, “Tell me again why she isn’t
Over at the kitchen bench,
Denise snorted, her hands busily assembling their lunch. “You know
haven’t found what I’m looking for?” he hazarded.
See? I knew
you’d listen eventually.”
didn’t know that I even
to look …” Dave gazed down at
this exquisite tiny replica of Denise, and let out a sigh,
wondering why she was so sure he wasn’t looking for this, exactly
this. They had been Denny–and–Davey for so very long, since his
very first day at school over twenty years ago, and it bewildered
him why they weren’t Denny–and–Davey–and–Zoe now. The baby’s fine
hair glowed golden, as his own and Denise’s did; Zoe didn’t even
have any of her father’s dark Italian looks, at least not from what
Dave could make out.
murmured a greeting as the baby’s eyes fluttered a little and then
opened to return his gaze with solemn blue. “Hey there, Zo. I’m
Davey.” The baby turned to curl trustingly into his chest. “I’m
your … Well. I’m your mum’s best mate. I think.”
are,” Denise put in with brisk scorn for the notion that there
could be any doubt about it. There was a brief scowl of frustration
from Zoe, and then a yawn which threatened to become a wail. Denise
came over and put a plate of sandwiches down on the table before
Dave, and then took Zoe, settled in a chair round the corner and
rearranged her own clothing so that Zoe could feed. Denise’s very
matter–of–factness emphasised that Dave was considered as mostly
harmless now; not even the ex, but only the friend who had no
chance at all of regathering what he’d lost.
Vittorio?” he asked, reaching for a sandwich, and keeping his eyes
politely averted – as if he hadn’t known that very breast as
intimately as anyone might, not so long ago.
Work. He got
called out; he’ll be a while.” Denise paused to shift Zoe a little
in her arms, as if still trying to find the right hold. The baby
wasn’t even two weeks old. “What did you want to talk about? You
said you had a trip coming up?”
Yeah. I could
be gone for a while. It’s all happened very quickly.”
she replied – then added as if bracing him up, “It’s good for
business. Tour group, is it?”
No, just one
guy. An English earl, for God’s sake! Well, the son of an earl, or
something. I’ve been dealing with the father’s butler, and he
wasn’t real specific. What does that make him? The son, I
Out of place.
Out of time! What’s he doing over here?”
Dave groaned. “Chasing
down some mythical butterfly. Apparently no one’s even sure it ever
existed in the first place.”
quest!” Denise’s eyes had lit up, though Dave knew well enough it
was at least half in humour. “A knight on a quest! A
Um, yeah, so
Oh God, shut
up, would you?” he grumbled good–naturedly. “It’s just as well that
Japanese tour group cancelled for June. He’s booked me for three
That sobered her up.
“You’re gonna be out there for
Dave essayed a shrug. “Not
the whole time, of course. But the idea is that we get this done,
whatever it takes. When I told them I had that week’s trip in July
with the Americans, he said he’d come along, too, if he was
welcome, or he’d wait for me to meet up with him again afterwards.
And if we find the damned butterflies early, he’s paying me the
full fee anyway.”
Huh,” was her
only response. A thoughtful silence stretched while Zoe finished up
on one breast and was switched to the other. Dave stared out the
French windows at the backyard until Denise was decently hidden
I just don’t
know what to expect,” Dave said.
Why? Not cos
he’s English. Your dad was English!”
always forget that.” Dave smiled a bit wistfully. He still missed
his dad. “But that’s not it.”
I only hope
he’s up to it. The guy who made the booking – his butler or
secretary or whatever – he said –”
before he hung up, he said – Well. To treat him kindly. So I’m left
thinking God knows
tell you why?”
Nope. And I
even asked; I followed up with an email. He just shrugged me off,
all very proper and dignified, as if he hadn’t even said it in the
Eventually Denise asked, “So where do you start, when you’re
looking for a butterfly that may or may not even exist?”
side of Cunnamulla. There’s supposed to be a waterhole – though
it’s not on any maps – and that’s –”
straight out of Dreamtime. Yeah.”
need to talk to Charlie, won’t you?” Denise visibly relaxed at the
notion. “You talk to Charlie before you head out there, and you
take care, do you hear me, Davey?
You take care.
will,” he scoffed. “How many years have I been doing
No, I mean
it. You have to come back, see, cos you’re gonna be – well,
whatever the irreligious version of a godparent is, for
An irreligious godparent …
? Dave just laughed. But before he left he pressed a gentle kiss to
the top of Zoe’s milk–scented golden–haired head, and he silently
wished her well. Just in case.
The plane was due in just
after seven in the morning. Dave made sure he was there in plenty
of time, even though the Englishman would need to go through
passport control, collect his luggage, and then get through
quarantine. All of which would take an hour, probably – but it
would be just Dave’s luck if he turned up at eight to find that the
earl’s son had been processed as a VIP or some such thing, and had
been waiting on him ever since.
Dave found a place to lean
on the waist–high barriers with the drivers and others carrying
signs. His own read
. That was the guy’s name.
Nicholas Goring. Which perhaps made his father Earl Goring, or was
it the Earl of Goring … ? When Dave wasn’t chatting in an early
morning haze to his current companions, he spent the time trying to
remember whether he’d had any clue about whether Nicholas was the
eldest son or not – and if he was, whether that meant Dave should
address him as ‘my lord’ or as ‘sir’. He’d looked it up on
Wikipedia, realised he’d need to email the butler for more
information, and then promptly let it all slip his mind.
He was kicking himself,
metaphorically at least. He was always more professional than this.
Always. And all right, maybe titles didn’t matter very much –
though he was sure they’d matter more to an Englishman than an
Australian – but no one could afford to be this slapdash in the
Outback. Why would Goring trust Dave with his life, if he couldn’t
even get this detail right?
Dave sighed, and watched
in a desultory way as the passengers from other flights straggled
through. No one looked their best after a 24–hour flight. No one.
This pair now, for instance – a father and a young daughter, Dave
assumed – appeared beyond tired, irritable, dishevelled, unhappy.
That all fell away, however, as they were greeted by an older
couple. The man’s parents, the girl’s grandparents: they had to be.
Faces brightened, postures lifted, hugs all round.
It would take a miracle to
perform the same transformation on the next pair who came through
the gates, though. A married couple, perhaps, whose marriage didn’t
look like it would survive the rigours of an international flight.
Dave and Denny had done that once, of course – headed off on the
obligatory backpacking holiday in their late teens. They’d done all
right together, despite having laughably little money and even less
sense. But then, they’d always been friends first, and a best mate
could see you through anything. They’d taken turns seeing each