Authors: Angela Verdenius
Tags: #love, #friends, #cats, #laughter, #loyalty, #fire fighter, #small town romance, #bbw romance, #australian romance, #sexual intimacy
Elissa crossed to the table and dropped down, kicking off her
high-heeled sandals with a sigh of relief while wriggling her toes
against the cool lino. “Oh man, I know this isn’t considered polite
but I needed to do that.”
“My home is
your home. You can run around bare-foot all day and I wouldn’t
“Can I sprawl,
too?” Stretching out her legs, Elissa leaned back in the chair.
expect you to flop in the hammock out back, sleep in late, and walk
around in thongs.”
sounds heavenly, I think the thongs part is out.” Elissa slanted
Ash a wry look. “And a touch of insomnia means sleep-ins are
something I don’t do that often.”
Blowing on the
hot liquid in the cup she held, Ash studied her. “Why?”
reason. Now tell me all about this wedding and the plans, because I
have to tell you, it sounds very laid-back.”
tell me a lot on the phone or in the emails.” Refusing to be drawn
into her troubles, Elissa determinedly steered away from what Ash
wanted to know. “Basically, you told me to turn up to be your maid
of honour with a pretty dress of my choice. That was it.”
Ash looked at
Elissa met her
gaze with a bland expression.
“I’m not doing
it, Ash. Not yet, anyway.”
Ash pursed her
“You can yell
at me - which you won’t - and you can wheedle and beg all you like,
I’m not prepared to discuss anything else right now except your
“I worry about
you.” Elissa stuck her fingers in her ears. “La-la-la!”
Right now I’m enjoying the company of my best friend and it’s her I
want to talk about. Her and that handsome firie fiancée of hers.”
She paused. “Actually, do all the men here look like those
“Not all.” Ash
grinned. “Scott, Ryder and Simon are three of what were considered
the four most eligible bachelors in Gully’s Fall and beyond, pretty
much into the next towns even. In fact, Ryder has probably shagged
most of here and beyond.” It was her turn to pause. “He’s a bit of
a man-whore. Or was.”
“Ah, that was
until Dee sorted him out.”
“You could say
“So who was
“Uh huh. So
three are taken off the market, and that leaves…?”
who fell out of the tree.”
“Yep. And I’m
not so sure anyone is going to capture Simon.”
that women’s affections roll right off him.”
Elissa’s brows rose. “You think?”
You haven’t seen him in action. He’s so easy-going and laid-back
that Ryder says he’s almost horizontal. He wouldn’t be far wrong.”
Ash grinned. “You’ll like Simon. You’ll like them all.”
you’ve told me over the phone, they sound a good mob.”
“They are. And
they’ll like you, too.”
Elissa’s smile was a touch ironic. “Will they just?”
“Once they get
to know you like I do, they’ll love you.”
redhead, because he doesn’t love anyone.”
If you only knew what
kind of impression I’ve already made on him.
say Simon doesn’t love anyone. He loves his friends.”
Ash took a
thoughtful sip of hot tea. “He doesn’t talk much about his family.
Oh, he’s made a reference here and there, but not a lot.” Placing
the cup back on the table, she frowned. “Huh, now that I think
“Don’t know a
lot about him?”
“Well, I do,
but… He doesn’t talk a lot about his past.” Ash shook her head. “I
never really thought about it.”
not as easygoing as you think.” For sure, Elissa wasn’t so certain
seen Simon angry. I don’t think he has a temper.”
has a temper. It just depends on how much they
reveal.” This time she slanted Ash an amused look. “Even you have
one, though it kind of comes off as sweetly disturbed.”
annoyed, then. Look, even now your temper is showing.” Elissa gave
a burst of surprised laughter when Ash flipped her the bird.
“Cripes, I never thought I’d see you do that again!”
taught me more than just to like myself again,” Ash retorted.
“So I see.
He’s a bad influence.”
“No, he’s the
There was no
doubting the happiness in her friend’s eyes, and it warmed Elissa.
Looking at the happy woman full of quiet confidence, it was a stark
difference to the shattered, tightly-held together woman who’d left
NSW to travel to the other side of Australia after a violent rape.
Alone. But she’d done it, and she’d done it with Elissa’s support
while everyone else had been dead-set against it. Even Moz, Ash’s
friend and Elissa’s brother, hadn’t been happy with Ash’s decision,
had argued long and hard with both women, but that wasn’t because
he was a moron, that was because Moz’s protectiveness of those he
loved was almost legendary. The thought of Ash driving long miles
alone had almost given him a heart attack. In the end he’d folded,
though, mainly because he couldn’t stop her.
Elissa had hoped for years that something romantic between Moz and
Ash would develop but it never had, and now as she looked at Ash,
had met Scott for however briefly, she knew that Ash’s
happily-ever-after was with her firie.
one of us has what we want
that sound sour?
thoughts from the morose depths of her mind, she focussed on Ash.
“Okay, you got the hot firie. Your friends are a hot cop and a hot
ambo, and their ladies. And another hot firie. Is he with Del?”
Ash shook her head. “They’re just friends.”
have a boyfriend?”
it’s not for lack of men wanting to date her. Granted, the town is
small with outlying farms but she’s had admirers. However, Del
isn’t ready to settle down, mainly because she’s not met the right
always said she won’t settle for second best.”
afraid of going it alone.” Ash thoughtfully swirled the tea in the
cup. “I guess she has everything she needs right here in town. I
know I have.”
She looked so
content, so happy.
grinned. “You’ve got a hot firie, what’s not to be happy about? Oh
yeah, and his spoiled cat.”
“They keep me
“Here’s to hot
men and spoiled cats.” Laughing, Elissa lifted her cup, tapping it
lightly against Ash’s. “You going to fill me in on the wedding
“I will, but
there are still a couple of things I’m sorting out.” Ash rubbed one
fingertip on the tabletop. “I want to tell you when it’s all
Aw, come on, Ash!”
friend held up her hand. “I want you to relax first, unwind, and
then I’ll fill you in on everything which I will have finalised by
Elissa teased. “Next year?”
you’re my best friend or I’d have to hurt you.”
at me, I’m so scared.” Elissa grinned. “You’re such a
perfectionist. Just tell me.”
“You’re such a
tightly wound spring,” Ash shot back. “Relax, unwind. I promise to
reveal all in a day or two, okay?”
Luckily she knew Ash well enough to understand her wanting to be
private until the arrangements had been sorted and sealed.
passed swiftly, darkness descending before she knew it. Scott
arrived home just as Ash was making gravy for the roast.
couldn’t help but see the love between them when he placed a hand
at Ash’s waist, bending down to kiss her. It was also more than
obvious that he wanted to do it a whole lot longer and hotter, but
the man had manners.
After a brief
kiss, he straightened and looked at Elissa standing at the sink
drying some dishes. His smile wreathed his face, made his eyes
back.” She grinned, unable to help liking him, especially when she
saw how gentle he was with Ash, how courteous.
He might not
have kissed her as long and hot as he wanted, but his hand at her
waist stayed, fingers kneading her just a little, enough to bring a
flicker of heat to Ash’s eyes, quickly hidden when she turned in
his arm on the pretence of checking the gravy.
Like no one could see the pink in her cheeks, the knowing grin on
Scott’s face as he threw a wink at Elissa while dipping his head to
brush a light kiss on Ash’s nape.
“I’m going to
shower and change. Tea smells good and I’m starving.”
He cut a fine
figure in his fire fighter uniform, tall, handsome, masculine -
then he saw Tilly wandering through the doorway and he literally
melted right in front of Elissa’s eyes.
baby.” Scott scooped the cat up in his arms, cradling her against
him on her back, her little paws sticking up in the air as she eyed
him. “Who’s daddy’s little girl? Huh? Have you been good?”
Elissa a wry look.
watched as Scott walked out the room, head tilted down as he
crooned sweet things to Tilly, who lay on her back in full
expectation of being carted around like a queen and spoken to like
Once Scott had
left, she looked at Ash. “Okay, I get it.”
“I hope so,
because you’ll see a lot of it.”
“I bet you
spoil her, too.”
“No one can
spoil her like Scott.”
passed pleasantly, Elissa retiring to bed feeling content. Right up
until her mobile buzzed quietly on the bedside table.
Picking it up,
she glanced at the caller, her gut tightening. Answer it? Disregard
it? Or turn it off?
continued buzzing. Jaw tightening, she turned it off.
No doubt she’d
pay for that later.
hovered above the ground when Elissa stepped out into the pre-dawn
darkness. Too dark to walk, but not too dark to stand and wait for
lightness to appear.
against the veranda post, she shivered at the chill in the air.
Everything was hushed, not even the birds stirring. She wished she
could be the same, fast asleep like the birds, like Ash and Scott
were still. Even Tilly hadn’t appeared.
Taking a deep
breath, she deliberately blanked her mind, refused to think of
anything, just waiting, breathing in the dampness from the
low-lying mist, feeling the dampness on her arms.
should have put on a light cardigan but once she started walking
she’d soon warm up, plus she didn’t feel like going back inside to
dark night gave to a dark grey, lightening gradually. A sound of
bird twitter came from the distance.
she looked around at the garden, the simple lawn, a gum tree in the
corner of the front yard, a couple of purple pea bushes growing
along the front fence. Simple, country, nothing fancy. The back
yard was where Ash put most of her energy - the lawn, the veggie
patch, the fruit trees. Not to mention the BBQ area on cement
slabs, the wooden table and benches where they enjoyed
get-togethers with their friends.
Going down the
steps, Elissa followed the footpath along the veranda to the
driveway then turned down it to walk along the pressed gravel to
the big, open gate. A right and she was on the street. Rolling her
shoulders, she tipped her head back, sucked in a deep breath of
chill early morning air, and started walking.
blocked out almost everything except traffic, but this time she had
new things to look at - the old-fashioned houses on large blocks of
land, some an acre in size, some half acres, the roomy yards, the
different gardens. All new, all interesting.
end of the street, she turned onto the main road, hesitating while
debating which way to go. Into town or out further into the
called to her but city caution had her turning to walk into the
town. Lengthening her stride, she noted the mist swirling around
her feet gradually disappearing as the early morning sun peeked
over a nearby hill.
Walking past a
large block of land with a low colonial-style building set well
back on it, she didn’t have to see the sign on the gate proclaiming
‘Gully’s Fall Boarding House’ to know that this was Scott’s
mother’s home. It was enchanting to see the roses running along
each side of the drive, fanning out to a parking lot on one side,
and a garage with ‘private’ marked on the other side. So old world.
She wondered if it would be too rude to ask Mrs Preston for a look
around the old place.
inner limits of the town, she passed a couple of empty, locked-up
work shops before turning onto the main street.
At the corner,
she looked left and right, enjoying the view. The main street she
recognised from the postcards and photos Ash had sent her but to
actually see it, walk past the old buildings, was magical. She
loved old things, loved history, and this town was a lovely mix of
old and newer, but not too new. Anything modern had been
incorporated in the older buildings, rather than knocking them down
for the harsher, blander new buildings that dwelt in the city. Even
the small supermarket was housed in an old building.