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Authors: Louise Forster

Tumble Creek

BOOK: Tumble Creek
11.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Tumble Creek

Louise Forster

Tumble Creek
Louise Forster

In the sequel to
Home Truths,
Louise Forster returns to the sleepy country town of Tumble Creek with the story of a cop, a teacher and a mystery that will bring them together—or tear them apart.

Art teacher and occasional life model Sofie Dove wants to know what's up with Brock Stewart. Everything about the ex-SAS soldier turned police officer seems to scream passion—and it's all for her—but he just won't express it. All she knows is that he has a past that still keeps him up some nights.

After a semi-trailer crashes through Sofie's house and the driver disappears into thin air, Brock insists he's the only one who can keep her safe—but can he, when they can't seem to trust each other?

While Sofie works on figuring out why this man keeps giving her mixed messages, Brock is determined to discover who's out to get her—as they both find out why falling in love is a bit like being hit by a truck.

About the Author

Louise Forster grew up in a Victorian country town. She ran barefoot along dirt roads and loved looking through the leaves of tall eucalypts at the azure summer skies. Eventually, she grew up, and the country town became a suburb of Melbourne. Running barefoot to catch her train to work would have caused more than a few raised eyebrows so she opted for stilettos, of course. At eighteen, Louise travelled through Europe, parts of Africa and the Pacific Islands. These days Louise lives on the far north coast of New South Wales on a small property that includes her extended family, three dogs, three cats and all manner of wildlife.


Thank you, Kate Cuthbert, for trusting me and understanding that, with help, dyslexics can write.

To my editor, Linda Nix, who makes me look
good. Thank you!

To the hardworking team at Harlequin Escape, thank you.

To my family who have always said, ‘go get'm, Mum'.

To the love of my life who reads what I believe is my last draft, but it never is.

To all the readers who choose to spend time amongst my pages on a journey of love and happy-ever-afters, thank you so much.

Dedicated to all the members of the Armed Forces


About the Author


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


Bestselling Titles by Escape Publishing…

Chapter 1

Sofie Dove should've been ecstatic this morning, but for some bizarre reason, unease twisted inside her. An ominous expectancy, so powerful it made the skin at her nape prickle and her stomach tie in knots.

She shook the feeling off and focused on the early morning sun sparkling on frost-covered grass and shrubs. She stopped for a moment to enjoy the bejewelled fantasy scene. She smiled, buttoned up her down-filled coat, and wrapped her woolly scarf around her neck, muttering, ‘It's going to be a wonderful, creative morning.' She open the back of her rusty station wagon, hauled out her equipment with a heave, and shut and locked her car. She tucked her easel and enormous sketchpad under one arm, and lifted her carrycase of art supplies in her other hand. Armed with these tools for teaching her first art class, Sofie hurried to the back entry of the Edwardian hall, hoping the caretaker had turned on the heating. There was no point in holding a life drawing class if the model needed to cover up because she had goosebumps and puckered nipples. As it was, she didn't know how the men who had signed on would react to a naked woman. They'd seemed very eager at the time, which in itself was a worry.

She hurried up the short set of stairs, her boots echoing on the old hardwood timber. Relieved to see, on reaching the stage, that three gas heaters, the kind used at outdoor cafés, were pumping out heat and the drawn heavy drapes were keeping it in. Chairs and small tables were set up in a semicircle facing a red chaise longue draped with a warm blanket. Eight people had signed on to take her class, a nice number that she could tutor one-on-one when necessary. After her breakfast stint at Veronica's—her sister Jennifer's restaurant—drawing was the perfect way to unwind.

Sofie started as a loud noise resounded through the building. Moments later the sounds of clomping feet and people chatting echoed through the hall. She smiled; her pupils had arrived and were ambling towards the stage. Sofie peered through the drapes and gave her artists a welcoming wave. ‘Hi everyone, come on up by the heaters. Do you all know each other?'

Lots of nodding as the would-be artists, five women and three men, rugged up in coats, assorted beanies and scarves, hurried to get near the heat. They each chose a place, such as it was, at chairs and tables and arranged their equipment.

‘Right,' Sofie said, rubbing her hands together, ‘we're all here and our model shouldn't be long.' She'd promised Britt two hundred dollars for a two-hour sitting. Britt didn't have a problem with nudity, on the contrary, she was looking forward to it. She'd even swapped with Fiona who was happy to take over her mid-morning coffee stint at Veronica's.

So where was Britt?

‘Um, Sofie?' Janet asked, worried brow wrinkled.

This did not bode well. Nerves?

‘Yes, Janet?' Sofie replied, smiling into Janet's bright blue eyes that seemed to say a hell of a lot.
No, this doesn't bode well, at all
. Was it all going to go to shit on her first attempt at bringing something different to Tumble Creek, something she would enjoy and hopefully her new pupils as well? It wasn't that she hadn't made friends, because she had, but something had been missing since moving here from Sydney. Art. She needed to get back into creating, into painting and drawing, to meet like-minded people, and this was the perfect solution.

All seven swung around to face Janet, who fidgeted with her pencils and haltingly continued, ‘Um … did you ask Britt or … um … Gabby?'

Britt was always punctual, yet she had not arrived. The same uncomfortable feeling she'd had standing by her car earlier stole through Sofie: something
gone wrong, already. ‘Um … Britt?' Sofie replied cautiously, her tone slanting up to a squeak.

Janet nodded and the rest of the worried-looking pupils swung their heads back and forth between them. ‘Well, we may as well pack up because Britt has disappeared. There are rumours going around town. Something about that she's in a witness protection thing.'

‘A what?!' Sofie's mind raced. Why would Britt need protecting? What or who would she need protecting from? Britt was, at a guess, about twenty-eight, maybe thirty, not married but she had family and friends who would worry. Sofie forced herself to calm down; after all, it was just a rumour. Nevertheless, Britt was still absent.

‘Britt has been living in town for about eighteen months. She kept to herself at first, always wary of her surroundings and anyone who tried to make friends … except you, Sofie.' Janet wasn't telling Sofie anything she didn't already know.

‘Strange that she never said anything to me. I think something, or someone, has caught up with her.' Oh crap, why did she have to say that out loud? Turning back to her students Sofie muttered, ‘Not that I know anything, it's just a feeling in my …' she trailed off.

Thinking back, it was all true, yet once Britt settled in at Veronica's, she was bubbly, outgoing and a delight to have around. ‘I'll miss her,' Sofie mumbled, troubled about why Britt, a vivacious, gorgeous girl would need help in that way. For no reason, other than her peculiar sixth sense, the dread she'd dismissed returned, burying itself deeper.

Sofie's fingers raked through her mass of curly blonde hair. ‘She didn't say anything about it to me,' she repeated, her voice barely above a whisper.

‘I suppose if she is under protection, and it all being hush-hush … um … she probably couldn't tell anyone … anything.' Janet nodded, face drawn with concern.

‘Bloody hell—I hope Britt will be all right.'

‘Are we still having a class?' Gina asked, sounding hopeful.

After making the effort to come out in the freezing cold, Sofie didn't want to disappoint her new pupils. ‘We'll try … hey? I don't suppose Gabby is available?'

Gina shook her head, red hair dancing around her face. ‘Gabby is on her shift at the hospital, won't be free until later this arvo.'

The scary idea that
could model took hold of Sofie. There wasn't anything to it, really. You just go naked and draped yourself over a chaise … simple. Did she worry about what her mother would think? She could picture her disapproving face and hear her tut-tutting.
Well bugger that.
Did she worry about showing her body? Of course she did, but being curvaceous was perfect for life drawing. Rubens would have thought so. Rubens would've loved it, definitely.

‘Well—' Sofie took a deep breath, ‘—if everyone is still interested in having a go, I'll strip and you can all draw me.' Gasps echoed through the hall. Men cleared their throats. ‘It's not a problem, honestly. I just won't be able to walk around and give you pointers, but I will call out now and then to remind you to stay loose and let your lines flow freely.' Taking the blanket off the chaise, Sofie went behind the screen to undress, dropping her clothes over the top of the screen as she peeled off the layers. Talking all the while and hoping they didn't run when she came out. ‘We'll do five-minute sketches at first. Your choice of either pencil or charcoal.'

‘Five minutes? I can't draw a person in five minutes,' Barry complained.

Sofie popped her head over the screen. ‘This is what artists do, it's an exercise that will help you loosen up. Help you to stop worrying about all the little details, you know, sketch the whole person, not just an eye or mouth. Trust me, it works,' she said rounding the screen, blanket tucked around her ample breasts. She picked up the timer, set it to repeat the alarm every five minutes. ‘Okay, ready?'

Despite more throat-clearing, Sofie tiptoed over the cold floor and draped herself on the chaise. They would just have to deal with the discretely-placed blanket covering her privates. Quickly, pencil and charcoal scratched over artist's paper. Soon the alarm tinkled and Sofie changed position. This went on several times, before she called a break and, wrapped in her blanket, moved around behind her pupils to gently make suggestions. And then she went back to the chaise, lying down, one leg cocked and leaning over her other thigh, otherwise exposing her whole body. Eyes closed, she encouraged them by saying, ‘There's no one here to criticise your work, so stay loose, occasionally change from pencil to charcoal or whatever …' She finished with a flutter of her hand.

The heavy sound of boots thumping on timber echoed through the hall below them … getting closer.

Up on one elbow, Sofie covered herself and waited for whoever it was to speak or leave. But the sound of boots hitting the steps up to the stage put an end to that idea. Sofie couldn't believe this was happening, it was just her luck to have someone walk in on them. She quickly covered herself as best she could before the intruder entered their private area.

The drapes parted and Brock Stewart, a mountain of powerful muscles, sauntered right up and stopped barely inches away from her chaise longue. Starting at his boots, Sofie's eyes slowly drifted up. His thigh muscles flexed in faded jeans, the long sleeves on his black T-shirt were pushed up to mid forearm, the rest was stretched over a deep, wide chest and taut biceps.

BOOK: Tumble Creek
11.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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