Red Dust Rebel
In the small town of Elliot’s Crossing, things are never really in the past …
Justine Turner knew she’d become a solicitor the day her childhood friend Nate Kincaid was sentenced to juvenile detention for a crime he did not commit. Fifteen years later, Nate is back in town and JT is more determined than ever to defend him, and not just because of an unrequited crush. But small towns have long memories, and this one is sure Nate is guilty.
Being the town’s black sheep is hard work, but Nate has neglected his sonly duties long enough. Back in town to care for his mother while she heals from a broken arm, it’s not long before Nate discovers her condition is far worse than he expected. His only welcome distraction is JT, the gangly girl he knew from childhood who is now smart, sassy-and entirely kissable.
But everyone is keeping secrets, lies are falling apart, and unrequited love is surfacing–a force strong enough to tame a rebel … or tear a town apart.
A small-town romance about overcoming prejudice, second chances and setting the past free.
‘You’d think I’d have learned by now,’ Justine Turner muttered as she contemplated what to put down, the fresh coffee or the files she carried. ‘Why can’t I get the keys out before I pick up the coffee? I’m smart. I’m a solicitor for chrissakes.’
She put the files down on the ground in front of the door to her office, placing the coffee carefully on top, hoping the coffee wouldn’t take a tumble and the files wouldn’t blow away in the cool morning breeze, grateful she’d worn pants instead of a skirt today. Then she set to work rifling through her cavernous handbag for the offending keys.
‘Why can’t I be delicate and neat, have a small handbag with just the essentials?’ She pulled out a leaky pen, half a pack of chewing gum and a bracelet with a broken clasp. ‘That’s where you got to,’ she said as she shoved the bracelet in her jacket pocket and continued her search.
‘I like a woman on her knees.’ A pair of too-shiny loafers appeared in the corner of her vision.
She closed her eyes for a moment, steeling herself not to lash out. Deep breath in … deep breath out …
‘If you worked for my father you’d have a receptionist who’d open the office for you.’
‘I have a perfectly good receptionist, thank you, Trevor.’ Justine kept focus on her hunt for her keys and off the myriad of things she’d like to do to Trevor Andrews. None of them pleasant. ‘They’re here somewhere … ah! … there they are.’
‘I don’t know why you’re holding out when you could have a much more lucrative career with Dad. You could have better cases than property line disputes or drawing up some loser farmer’s will.’ Trevor didn’t bother to hide his contempt so neither did she.
‘I happen to like loser farmers and their fence lines, and I happen to like working for myself. Independence is nice. You should try it sometime.’ She stood up and delivered a dazzling would-you-like-fries-with-that smile before turning to put the key in the lock. The trick was to get rid of Trevor without being a complete bitch, and then drink her coffee while it was still hot.
The door swung open. She was so close. Only a few carpeted metres stood between her and the sanctuary of her office. Hitching her handbag a little higher, she crouched down to retrieve her coffee and the files.
‘The other thing I like is the quiet time I get to myself before the day starts.’ She raised the coffee, hoping he’d take the hint. He didn’t.
‘Hay Balers’ Ball is nearly here.’ Trevor could never be accused of being sensitive to the vibe around him.
‘That is a fact.’ Justine silently ran through a series of pithy rejoinders, looking for something definitive that would send Trevor packing. The way his piggy little eyes roved over her made her flesh creep.
‘Have you got a date?’
Ah, so that’s what this was all about. She sighed, longing for solitude and the rapidly cooling coffee.
‘I’m maid of honour for Tamsin and Angus,’ she reminded him. ‘I’m not strictly supposed to have a date because of the whole partnering the best man thing.’
‘Yeah, of course.’ Trevor nodded and shoved his hands in his pockets. For one tiny moment, she almost felt sorry for him. ‘I forgot they’re getting married at the ball. Bloody stupid idea if you ask me.’
And there it was … his childish spite. All sympathy officially terminated.
‘Just as well they didn’t ask you, right?’ Her hackles began to rise in a spikey little line down her back, her inner bitch begging to be let loose. The problem—Trevor’s father happened to be a very powerful and influential man in these parts and Trevor happened to be a spoilt brat who liked to make trouble. She’d give him one last opportunity to walk away before she unleashed.
‘It’s been lovely talking to you but …’ she began in her best Audrey Hepburn-inspired tone of politeness, only to be drowned out by the painfully loud and unmistakable throbbing of a motorbike engine. She frowned down the street in the direction of the noise. No one in town owned a bike that loud. Most of the boys owned trail bikes that sounded more like mosquitoes with ADHD.
The bike swung into view at the eastern end of town. Low and sleek, chrome gleaming in the morning light, its rider astride with a loose ease as if bike and man were fused together like some kind of twenty-first century centaur. She shaded her eyes from the rising sun, looking for clues as to why someone so obviously from the city would be hell-bent on shattering the morning peace of her sleepy little town. Especially on a week day.
The Harley Davidson cruised slowly down the main street, its rider looking for something as his head swivelled from side to side. A closer view revealed the bike to be painted a deep cherry red, the kind that made you want to take a bite.
‘Who the fuck is that?’ Trevor stood with his hands on his hips, a proprietorial glare on his face, as if prepared to run the stranger out of town—his town.
‘Keep your hair on, Trevor. It’s a free country and Elliott’s Crossing could do with a bit of tourism.’ Not sure she agreed with her own statement, but she was determined not to side with him.
Trevor patted the spot on top of his head that had begun to thin out last year, as if to check his hair was still there. She allowed herself a little smile of victory. Score! Got him back for the woman-on-her-knees crack.
The motorbike traced a lazy arc across the tarmac, as if the owner had found what he was looking for but was in no hurry, and came to a rest outside her office.
She resisted the urge to put her fingers in her ears as the engine gave one last powerful rev before falling silent. Her ears continued to ring as her eyes took in the long, lean length of the rider. Dark denim hugged muscular thighs, and there was no hiding those biceps under the checked shirt and leather riding vest he wore.
A little spark of something long forgotten fired deep inside her for a second. A little shudder quickly followed, the last thing she needed was that kind of complication.
‘What’s wrong? You sick or something?’ asked Trevor.
‘Someone walked over my grave,’ she said, her eyes not leaving the stranger as he flipped up the visor on his full-face helmet, removed his sunglasses and put them in his pocket. She couldn’t make out his face, still obscured as it was by the helmet.
Trevor snorted. ‘You encourage bikers into this town and you might very well end up in an early grave.’
‘Stop being so dramatic,’ she took her eyes off the stranger long enough to throw a scowl Trevor’s way. ‘He’s hardly a one-percenter.’
‘How can you tell?’
‘The vest. No patch on the back, indicates no affiliation with an outlaw bikie gang.’ She pointed to the garment in question.
‘If you say so, you’re the legal eagle.’ He shrugged in such a way she knew he wasn’t convinced by her logic.
She sighed. ‘Some things never change in this town,’ she muttered.
The stranger slid his helmet off, and placed it carefully on the seat of his bike. He ran his hands through his full head of dark hair. Trevor narrowed his eyes at the gesture and she stifled a giggle.
‘Holy fuck!’ Trevor hissed as the man finally turned around to face them.
‘What’s wrong?’ The blood had drained from Trevor’s face and he looked like he might pass out. ‘Are you alright?’ She placed one hand on his arm, concerned he might lose his balance and collapse.
‘I’ve got to get out of here,’ he muttered. He shrugged her hand off, and with a quick glance over his shoulder, lumbered awkwardly in the opposite direction as if he’d seen a ghost.
She watched him go, puzzled at his odd behaviour. The man’s default position was Pain-In-The-Arse and she did what she could to avoid him, yet she couldn’t contain the concern tugging at her as she watched him go. He looked like a heart attack candidate.
‘Long time, no see, JT.’ A voice like gravel on velvet captured her attention.
Turning slowly, she came face to face with the stranger.
‘Holy crap,’ she whispered, covering her mouth with her hand as the blood pooled in her feet. Now she knew what Trevor was so bugged out about.
Nate Kincaid was back.