Read When Danger Follows Online

Authors: Maggi Andersen

Tags: #Romance

When Danger Follows

When Danger Follows
Book Jacket
Tags:
Romance

Words: 40279

Teacher, Caitlin Fitzgerald runs for her life, taking a position as a governess on a cattle station in outback Australia . In this vast, arid country, populated by tough men and women, Caitlin finds more loyal friends than in the big city she left behind. And the station engineer, Harry Phillips wants much more than friendship. Jake Monterey, the aloof station owner, is another matter. He believes her ill-equipped to handle the outback. Determined to prove him wrong, Caitlin learns to defend herself, skills she will need if the danger left behind in Ireland follows her. Rating: Sensual.

–––––––––––—
When Danger Follows
by Maggi Andersen
–––––––––––—
Romance

New Concepts Publishing
www.newconceptspublishing.com

Copyright ©2008 by Maggi Andersen

 

NOTICE: This work is copyrighted. It is licensed only for use by the original purchaser. Making copies of this work or distributing it to any unauthorized person by any means, including without limit email, floppy disk, file transfer, paper print out, or any other method constitutes a violation of International copyright law and subjects the violator to severe fines or imprisonment.

CONTENTS

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

* * * *

When Danger Follows

By

Maggi Andersen

© copyright by Maggi Andersen, December 2008

Cover art by Alex DeShanks, December 2008

ISBN 978-1-60394-250-8

New Concepts Publishing

Lake Park, GA 31636

www.newconceptspublishing.com

This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author’s imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.

Chapter One

The driver pulled Caitlin’s suitcase from the Greyhound tourist coach that had brought her up from Broome. He jumped back behind the wheel and drove off in a swirl of dust.

She looked around. She might well be the last person on the earth. The oppressive heat was far worse than anything she had imagined. Moving to a straggly gum tree nearby, she sat on her suitcase in the tiny circle of shade.

The mid-day sun bleached the sky to a silver haze, which shimmered, distorting everything in the distance. Pulling her hair free of its band, it settled like a damp towel on her neck. She put on her inadequate cotton sunhat, and began spreading sunscreen cream on any exposed bits of skin. She was sweating in her jeans—she’d have to change as soon as she arrived at the house.

Had she done the right thing coming here? She wanted so much to build a new life for herself, somewhere where she felt safe.

Down the road, another trail of dust rose. She gasped with relief the sight of another human being. The truck rattled as it drove around her in a tight arc, pulling up with a spray of pebbles and dirt.

The door flung open and a big man leapt out, grinning. “You’ve got to be Caitlin Fitzgerald.” He grabbed her case and threw it in the back beside a panting kelpie dog.

She climbed into the cab. It smelt of cow dung and smoke.

He nodded at her. “Harry’s the name. Harry Phillips. Gee, you’re going to have to be careful with that skin of yours. English, are you?” He set the truck in motion with a noisy grinding of the gears.

“Pleased to meet you, Harry.” Caitlin was conscious that her face was probably flushed and sweaty. “Irish, from Dublin actually.”

Harry might have been close to her age, but his skin was deeply tanned and laughter lines radiated from the corners of his hazel eyes. He wore khaki shorts and a sleeveless shirt that had seen better days, but his boots were polished until they gleamed like mirrors. He pushed his Akubra hat back off his face with a callused finger, and turned to look at her more than once as they sped along.

“That’s a great head of red hair you have, Caitlin. Do you have the temper to go with it?”

“I’ve been accused of being fiery on occasion,” she replied, anxious that he should watch the road.

“I’ll have to stay on the right side of you then,” he laughed, turning again to peer out through the dusty windscreen at the unchanging landscape. “What made you decide to come to the end of the earth to live?”

She paused. “Curiosity—I’ve read a lot about the Australian Outback and wanted to see it. How far to Tall Trees?”

“We’re already on it.”

“Did it start at that last gate?”

Harry gave a hearty guffaw. “Look to the horizon, east, west, north and south—all you can see is Tall Trees, and then some.”

She peered through the window, struggling to grasp the sheer size of the landscape. She’d always felt at home in a crowd. Here, there was nothing but earth and sky for miles and it made her feel a bit odd.

Not afraid exactly, that’s an emotion she was familiar with.

“Tall Trees seems an incongruous name to me,” she said.

“Do you mean it doesn’t fit?”

“Not many trees around here, tall or otherwise.”

“Wait till we get there. Can you see that hill in the distance?”

She leaned forward, rubbing ineffectually at the windscreen. “That’s where we’re heading?”

“Yep.”

Her mouth felt horribly dry. She’d had nothing to drink since the bottle of water bought at the last whistle-stop. “Does it ever rain here?”

“In the rainy season. When it does, look out.”

“It floods?” she said, with a strong note of disbelief in her voice.

Harry laughed. “If the river breaks its banks. You wait.”

Caitlin wasn’t at all sure she wanted to.

Harry noted her expression. “The house is okay, it’s on top of a hill,” he said taking pity on her. “But they do get cut off sometimes. So, you’re here to look after Jake Monterey’s kids?”

“That’s right.”

“Best of Irish luck to you.”

Her heart sank. “They’re difficult?”

“More willful than bad. Monterey’s let ‘em run wild since his wife died.”

“How long is it since she passed away?”

“Over two years now. He goes off a lot these days-flies to Darwin on business. He has a lady-friend there.”

She held her breath as Harry took his hands off the wheel and, steering with his knees, lit a cigarette. “Away now actually,” he went on. “Maybe he plans to marry her and bring her back here. That would be a real good idea. The kids need it.”

“Wouldn’t he tell you of his plans?”

He laughed and shook his head. “Nope, Jake’s a bit of a closed shop.”

“What is it that you do, Harry?”

Harry pushed back his hat and scratched his head. “I help muster the cattle. We send ‘em off to one of the bigger stations, for shipping to Asia and the Middle East. We also breed quarter horses. They’re my main interest, but I’m a mechanic by trade. I maintain the machinery—keep it all in good working order. Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none,” he said cheerfully.

“That’s quite an impressive list of accomplishments,” she said. “You must be very busy.”

“Oh, I get time off,” he said, glancing at her. “Saturday nights are always free.”

She smiled and turned to gaze out of the window. “Just how big
is
Tall Trees?”

“Tall Trees employs about thirty people and a fair few itinerant workers come and go. We all manage to work as a team under Jake. He’s the station manager as well as owner.”

They arrived at the base of the cliff, glowing brilliant orange in the sun, and began to climb. Caitlin was amazed as the rocks and shrubs gave way to forest. “What sort of trees are these?”

“Bloodwood, ghost gums, turpentine.”

She thought it seemed a little cooler here, but that might be wishful thinking. It wasn’t long before they were traveling through dense bush land and she heard her first kookaburra laugh. A small, furry grey animal bounced across the track and the truck swerved.

“Effin wallabies,” Harry cursed.

“Where’s the nearest town?” she asked, when he’d straightened up again. She was beginning to relax. He appeared to handle the difficult conditions with practiced ease.

“Burrawong—not far, twenty kilometers or so down the other side of the hill.”

She wouldn’t be walking into town then. The revelation brought a wave of inexplicable claustrophobia washing over her.

“Do you ride?” he asked, breaking into her thoughts.

“No. I’m a bit scared of horses.”

“You’ll have to learn,” he said. “Can’t survive here, out of the saddle. Tell you what,” he turned to her again, carelessly disregarding the slippery bush track the truck was negotiating. “I’ll teach you.”

“Thanks.” She tensely watched the track, wishing he’d do the same.

A mile or so on, they emerged from the bush and approached another gate. Harry jumped out to open it with the truck still edging forward.

“You’ll be doing this in future,” he said, back behind the wheel, grinding the gears as the truck leapt forward. “We’ll let you off today.” Then he was gone again to close it.

Caitlin looked ahead at an amazing green oasis—Tall Trees, her new home. An avenue of shady trees with broad flat leaves she couldn’t identify, led up to the house. In the island formed by the circular sweep of gravel driveway, a sprinkler pumped out a wide arc of spray over lush green lawns and a rose garden.

She felt the wrench of homesickness, surprised to find roses thriving here. She needed to be somewhere that had no resemblance at all to Ireland. “Where does the water come from?”

“Bore water. They’re lucky at Tall Trees. There’s a good underground supply.”

The house was older and certainly bigger than she had imagined. Built of sandstone blocks, it had four stately chimneys rising from its iron roof. A graceful curve of iron sheltered the wide verandah. She walked up to the front door. It had a light-well above it with
Tall Trees
etched into the glass.

“The jackeroo compound is down the bottom of the hill,” Harry said, pointing away to the right of the house. He carried her suitcase as if it was packed with feathers. “You want some riding lessons, come find me.”

“Thanks, Harry.”

“Angela’s a real character,” he said. “Wait till you hear her yodel, she’s a champ—won the pub talent contest four times running. The chooks love it.” He took off his boots on the verandah, placing them together by the door. Caitlin stood, wondering if she should do the same, was it a custom here, like in Japan? He opened the screen door and called into the gloom of the central hallway, “Angela?”

“Come in and have a cuppa.” Angela appeared from the end of the hall. She brought with her the aroma of something fresh-baked and delicious. Caitlin saw with relief that she was wearing shoes.

“You’ve taken off those beloved boots of yours, Harry, I’m pleased to see.” She turned to Caitlin and in the same breath said, “You must be the new girl. Caitlin isn’t it?”

Caitlin moved forward to shake the woman’s hand. She was small and thin, her hair streaked with grey, but her grip was like iron.

“I’m pleased to meet you, Angela,” Caitlin said to her back as she hurried off down the hall.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Angela said over her shoulder. “I have my work to be getting on with. The children are out in the kitchen, having their tea. Come through.”

Caitlin and Harry followed her down the deep blue-and-gold hall carpet, laid over timber floors. Lights like upturned crystal bowls hung from the high ceiling. Oil paintings dressed the walls. The kitchen was an airy room at the back of the house with both a wood stove and a more modern one. Windows looked out over a kitchen garden and open paddocks to the fringe of thick bush land. At a well-scrubbed, wooden table sat two children, gazing at Caitlin from over the top of their mugs.

“This is Elizabeth, the eldest, she’s eight.” Angela put her hand on the sandy curls of the girl. “And this is William.”

“I’m six,” William said, wiping his milk moustache. He was a beautiful little boy with dark hair, smooth olive skin and startling blue eyes.

“Hello, Elizabeth. Hello, William. I’m very glad to be finally meeting you both,” Caitlin said, smiling. “I’ve bought you both a present all the way from Ireland. When I’ve unpacked my case I’ll give them to you.” She’d brought them some books and two, woolly black-faced sheep, different from the Australian ones.

Elizabeth was a pale, slightly built child. She had a high-strung look about her, her skin stretched tight over the delicate bones of her face. She screwed up her freckled nose. “Your hair is the color of beetroots,” she said dispassionately.

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