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Authors: Mandy Magro

The Wildwood Sisters

BOOK: The Wildwood Sisters
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MANDY
MAGRO

www.harlequinbooks.com.au

Mandy Magro
lives in the picturesque country township of Grenfell, New South Wales, with her husband Clancy, and their two girls, Chloe and Taylor. She loves writing about the Australian outback and all the wonderful characters who live there, and her own adventures on the land have made her the passionate country woman she is today.

www.facebook.com/mandymagroauthor

www.mandymagro.com

For my soulmate and hubby Clancy,
and my beautiful forever friend, Tia.

Sisters we will forever be, our bond infinitely unbreakable, because
even in death our souls will still be united for eternity…

An earthbound spirit…

One that has not yet crossed over into the spiritual realm, a spirit which is halfway between the living and the dead—a deceased person's soul, an energy that lingers in the physical world until their final message is heeded and acted upon. And only with the revelation of truth and justice, their spirit will be freed.

CONTENTS

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Epilogue

Acknowledgments

PROLOGUE

Nine years ago

Opals Ridge, Far North Queensland

Her laboured breath escaping her in short, painful gasps, the girl staggered through the engulfing darkness, the towering ghost gums she'd found so beautifully mesmerising in the daylight now seeming menacing and foreboding. With the frenzied drumbeat of her heart echoing in her ears, she frantically looked around, trying to decide which way to go, blindly following her first impulse. All around her the inhospitable landscape was eerily silent but for the scurries of night creatures.

Bile rose in her throat as she remembered his animal grunts and groans, relived the horrific sensation of his rough hands upon her, hands that had once been so gentle with their touch. He'd been playing her all along—the true reason for his infatuation now revealed in all its shocking truth. He'd never loved her. What a fool she had been, thinking her secret was going to make things perfect. She never should have told him. She should never have done any of it.

The icy breeze ruffled the leaves of the towering native trees surrounding her, prickling her skin and making her shiver to the core. A bush stone-curlew called out from the looming shadows, the bird's eerie song only heightening her anxiety. She had always hated their sound, usually pulling her doona up and over her head when she heard their nocturnal calls. But tonight she wasn't tucked up safely in her bed at the homestead. Instead she was out in the dead of night, fighting for her life.

Stumbling over a fallen tree branch, she collapsed to the ground, the impact stealing the air from her lungs. She rolled onto her side, screaming silently, horrified by the knowledge that he was somewhere behind her, searching her out in the dark. It was at this very moment she begged God for her life.

CHAPTER
1

Present day

Melbourne

Gazing across the table of the chic restaurant, Renee groaned inwardly. The softly lit room oozed romance, although she wasn't feeling the slightest bit amorous. Her date had not stopped talking about himself all evening—everything from how many hours he spent at the gym and how respected he was at his job as an accountant, to what brand of hair products he preferred to use—and it was driving her up the wall. She hadn't been able to get a word in edgeways and he hadn't shown one ounce of interest in who she was on the inside. She'd given up even trying to speak, instead smiling when necessary and nodding in agreement with everything he was saying. Whatever happened to the chivalrous men who opened doors and pulled out chairs and asked genuine questions so they could get to know you better? She drew in a breath and refrained from rolling her eyes. She'd made it through entree and main course—only dessert to go. Thank God.

As if on cue the waiter arrived at their table with two plates of sweet deliciousness and Renee had to stop herself from cheering. Not long now and she could get out of this restaurant and crawl into her warm and cosy bed—alone. Her mobile phone chiming in her bag stopped her from devouring her first mouthful of chocolate and macadamia tart. She pulled it out, her heart landing in her throat when she spotted the caller ID. It was close to ten so what would her pa be doing calling at this hour of the night?

She looked to her date and forced a smile. ‘Excuse me, I have to take this.'

The bloke across from her nodded and started flicking through his phone before she'd even had a chance to answer hers.

‘Hi, Pa, is everything okay?'

‘Hi, Renee. Not really, love. Your nan has had a heart attack…but don't panic, she's going to be okay.'

Renee sucked in a sharp breath as tears prickled her eyes. She held them back, though, not wanting comfort from her date. ‘Oh my God, Pa, where is she now?'

‘She's recovering in the cardiac unit at the Opals Ridge hospital. The doctors are monitoring her very closely.'

‘That's good. I'll try to organise a flight for tomorrow.'

‘Oh Renee, no need to do that. You know how we feel about you coming back here after that letter. We don't want to risk losing you like we lost Scarlet. I think it would be best if you just stay where you are and I promise I'll keep you updated.'

Renee felt as dubious about returning to Opals Ridge as her pa did. And there was very good reason to, but this changed everything. ‘I have to see her, Pa. I wouldn't forgive myself if…'

Her pa cut her off. ‘That's not going to happen. Trust me. She's going to be alright.'

‘I don't know, Pa. I just really feel like I need to see her.'

‘It's late, Renee. I don't want you making a rash decision to come back here right now. I'll talk to you in the morning, okay?'

‘Okay,' was all Renee could say, her throat so tight she could barely take a decent breath.

‘Love you, Missy-Moo.'

‘Love you too, Pa. And please tell Nan I love her too.'

It was just past midnight. Renee stood in front of her bathroom mirror, defeated, deflated and miserable. Peeling the spaghetti straps from her shoulders, her Swarovski-studded Louis Vuitton dress slid effortlessly from her body. Tia was certainly right, she had lost weight—the pressure of her job and the countless hours she spent doing it were taking a toll. Black rings circled her eyes, eyes that were bloodshot and glassy from crying—she hadn't been able to hold in the tears after she'd got off the phone to her pa, and mascara stained her cheeks from where they had fallen like a river.

As she'd predicted, her date had begged to come inside with her but she had declined, saying she was way too tired for company—besides, what kind of man would still press for sex after the heartbreaking phone call she'd received less than an hour ago?

The lack of depth of these city blokes was driving her round the bend. She'd always dreamt of finding the kind of love that would make her heart race and her toes curl, while leaving her blissfully breathless—the type of love she'd felt so briefly, yet poignantly, once before—but the last few guys she'd dated were making her doubt her faith in a happily ever after.

With her pa's words swirling around in her mind, her tears began to fall once more, her deep sobs breaking the silence of her one bedroom apartment.

Her beautiful nan, the woman that had always been there for her, now needed
her
to be there, and so did her pa. He had tried to reassure her that Nan was going to be okay, but Renee was finding it hard to believe him. What if he was just saying that to stop her coming home? What if she didn't go back and Nan died before she got to tell her to her face how much she loved her? Life could be really cruel—after what she had been through in her lifetime she knew just how damn cruel it could be. She couldn't bear the thought of losing her nan, not now, not ever. She needed to find the courage to return to Wildwood Acres, but even after nine years of being away, the note she'd found on her windscreen—the one that had made her skip town so suddenly—still haunted her, and the thought of the nightmares starting all over again overwhelmed her.

Smacking her open palm down on the marble vanity, she swore loudly. She was tired of letting fear run her life, and fed up with forever feeling as though she was treading dangerous waters with her lips just above the surface.

Pa was nearing seventy. With his long-time sidekick Mick recovering from a freak accident, and Nan in hospital, she knew he could use an extra hand around the place, be it in the saddle or around the homestead. Not that Stanley Wildwood was going to admit that to her. His fears about her returning home overshadowed any desire for her to ever go back.

But I have to.

Renee closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, turning back the clock in her mind to the days when her future seemed full of endless possibilities. She had spent the first seventeen years of her life at Wildwood Acres and there were many happy memories of her and her twin sister, Scarlet, growing up on the property, memories she had locked away after that devastating night almost ten years ago. It was about time she allowed herself to reminisce. Smiling sadly, she hugged her arms around herself as if trying to stop herself blowing away.

The world had been an enchanted place with Scarlet beside her, her sister always seeing everything through rose-coloured glasses. It had been one of her many beautiful qualities, one Renee treasured now more than ever.

Those who don't believe in magic will never find it, Reni.

Yes, sis, but those who live in an airy-fairy world will never be able to find their chosen reality because they're not living in the real world…

Oh come on, Reni, you have to learn to open your mind and trust in fate. Otherwise your life will be really boring.

I like boring. It means I know what's around the corner.

You're a stick in the mud.

No I'm not. I'm just a realist, that's all. There's no mud stuck on me.

Oh ha ha.

Even though they were born only minutes apart, Renee had always felt like the older sister—which technically she was as she had emerged from the birth canal first. But not being there to protect Scarlet from whatever had happened left her feeling guilty as hell.

BOOK: The Wildwood Sisters
6.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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