Authors: Fleur McDonald
Tags: #FIC027000, #book
Fleur McDonald lives on a large farm east of Esperance in Western Australia, where she and her husband Anthony produce prime lambs and cattle, run an Angus cattle and White Suffolk stud and produce a small amount of crops. They have two children, Rochelle and Hayden. Fleur snatches time for her writing in between helping on the farm.
is her fourth novel.
Also by Fleur McDonald
This is a work of fiction. The people depicted in this novel are not real and geographical locations are not necessarily described as they are in real life.
First published in 2013
Copyright Â© Fleur McDonald 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian
Copyright Act 1968
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.
Arena Books, an imprint of
Allen & Unwin
Cataloguing-in-Publication details are available
from the National Library of Australia
ISBN 978 1 74237 483 3
Set in 13/17.5 pt
Garamond by Midland Typesetters, Australia Printed and bound in Australia by Griffin Press
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
To my brother, Nicholas Parnell and sister,
Susan Woolford: you are my strength, my rock,
my core, as family is.
And, as always, to Anthony, Rochelle and
Hayden, with much love.
The Nullarbor is a very special place steeped in history. Although it is vast, and the distance between stations and people is great, the sense of community is strong.
None of the stations or people in this book are real or based on any one person or place. You may, however, recognise a mixture of family histories and stations all rolled into one to create Danjar Plains.
I have also taken liberties with the amount of plane action out there. Mostly people drive the distances.
Tessa's first realisation was that her head hurt. Not just hurt, but felt like it was going to explode.
She opened one eye, but shut it again quickly â the light was blinding. A familiar feeling of nausea rose in her throat. Swallowing hard, she tried to work out where she was. Her mouth was dry and she craved water. What on earth had happened last night?
She slowly turned over but froze in the tangled sheets when her hand made contact with a warm body. Her eyes flew open.
Not again. Please Lord, not again!
But there was no avoiding it. Or the man lying beside her, for that matter. His face was half-hidden by the bedclothes, but she could see a gold earring in his left ear and a thick gold pinkie ring on his hand, which was thrown carelessly across the pillow.
âOh no!' The words burst from her, but before she could say anything more she shot out of bed and ran from the room in search of the bathroom.
Frantically opening doors, she at last found the toilet.
Later, her head resting on the cool porcelain tiles, Tessa berated herself for getting so drunk she couldn't remember the previous evening.
After a while, she heard a deep, masculine cough through the paper-thin walls and wondered if it was her mysterious companion.
From the unfamiliar bed.
In the unfamiliar flat.
She dragged herself up off the floor. Catching sight of her reflection in the mirror, she gasped. She'd forgotten that only yesterday she'd had her thick dark hair cut so short the waves now hugged her skull, and on a dare from Jaz, had dyed her new locks blonde. There was more fun to be had, Jaz had assured her if you were blonde. She had apparently lived up to that expectation.
To top it off her olive skin was pasty, her eyes bloodshot and pink-rimmed. It wasn't Tessa Mathison staring back at her. It was a stranger. She groaned and shut her eyes, letting her head fall forward.
Now she had to go out and interact with someone she didn't even know, despite having already shared the most intimate of moments with him.
As she turned on the tap she heard another voice, female this time, and recognised her friend Jasmine's throaty giggle. âCharlie, don't do that, you naughty boy!' said Jaz, though she didn't sound like she meant a word of it. Still, Tessa was pleased to know Jaz was in the flat, too.
She wasn't alone.
There was a gentle tap on the door. âTessa, are you finished? I'm a bit keen to use the loo.'
âAh, I'll be right out, she called and doused her face with cold water. Straightening, she ignored her pounding head and grabbed the nearby towel to wrap around her slight frame. She plastered on a smile. If only she could remember the man's name . . .
âSorry,' she said as she opened the door.
She tried to pass him without being touched, but the man placed a hand on her bare shoulder and smiled. âGood morning. How is my little Australian jillaroo today?'
Australian jillaroo? Hell. She must have been beyond pissed. Tessa hoped she hadn't done her kangaroo act with Jasmine in tow.
âUm, morning,' she muttered, blushing. âFine. Bit of a headache, that's all.'
âI've got something to help fix that problem. Top drawer, next to my bed.' He winked.
Tessa went to thank him but he'd already shut the door. Feeling like her head was about to fall off she found her way back to the bedroom.
Pulling open the drawer, she rummaged around in search of Panadol or something stronger. She found something much stronger: a small plastic bag of white powder. Tessa, being no stranger to the London party scene, guessed it was cocaine.
âDamn,' she whispered and slammed the drawer shut. Maybe she should just pretend she'd never seen it. Yes, that's what she'd do.
Clothes, she needed her clothes. Seeing them next to the bed, she dropped the towel and lunged towards the pile which had obviously been dropped there in a hurry. She tugged them on, wrinkling her nose at the smell of beer and cigarette smoke. She fixed her hair and makeup as best she could without a mirror.
Never seen it, never heard of it. Do I know you?
It was something she'd always said to her Aunty Spider when she was a little girl and trying to get out of trouble. It had never worked, though. Aunty Spider could always see through her.
, Tessa thought as she remembered her great-aunt's most recent letter in her handbag. The letter she still hadn't answered.
Jasmine stumbled into the bedroom, a man's white business shirt wrapped around her like a robe. âWell, helloooo, daaarling!' she said, her tone formal. âWeren't you a little party animal last night!' Jaz wiggled her eyebrows up and down suggestively.
Grabbing Jaz's arm, Tessa steered her down the hall and into the front room of the flat. âWho are these two?' she whispered. âAnd what did I do last night? I want to die!'
âOh, don't worry, sweetness. I have everything under control.
. Now, I believe we may need a coffee. Or another drink.'
? If I never see another drink it will be too soon! Do you know what his name is?' asked Tessa.
âJohn Smith. Come!' Jasmine slipped her arm through Tessa's and tried to propel her towards the tiny kitchen, but Tessa pulled away.
âYou don't really believe that's his name, do you?' Tessa groaned, putting her hand to her head. âBloody hell, I've got to find some Panadol.' She looked around for her handbag, but couldn't see it.
She stuck her head out of the door and combed the entrance. Ah, there it was buried under her coat, which had been dumped on the mat near the front door.
Tipping the contents of her bag onto the floor, she fossicked around until she found a screwed-up packet with two tablets left in it. Throwing the tablets into her mouth she swallowed them without water, then stuffed everything back into her bag. She'd start to feel better soon. Twenty minutes and at least the edge of the headache would be gone.
âSo, what's with the Queen's accent?' asked Tessa, looking up at her friend.
âI'm being impressive,' Jaz said as regally as a woman wrapped in a rumpled shirt and not much else could before heading towards the kitchen.