Archive for October, 2008

Interview with Dellani Oakes

October 31, 2008 By: Guestauthor Category: Guest Blogger, Latest News 5 Comments →

Interview used by permission of Second Wind Publishing and the author 

Second Wind: I am joined today by Dellani Oakes, author of the historical romance novel, “Indian Summer” available through Second Wind Publishing. Hello, Dellani, and welcome.

Dellani: Thank you. I am delighted to be here.

SW: What inspired you to write this novel?

D: When I moved the Florida twenty years ago, I was overwhelmed by the wealth of history. St. Augustine, as the oldest established city on the east coast, holds an extra special fascination for me. I wanted to bring a bit of that history alive.

SW: Why the time period, 1739? I’m guessing that’s significant.

D: Yes, it is. There was a great deal of enmity between the Spanish and British in Europe and Florida gave them another venue in which to fight. The British were constantly trying to take over the fort in St. Augustine, the Castillo de San Marcos. In 1740, they very nearly succeeded.

SW: Why all this fuss over Florida? Grant you, it’s pretty country, but with the climate and the diseases the mosquitoes carried, why would anyone want such an untamed place?

D: I asked that very question too. What I found during my research was that St. Augustine was a strategic military position. The Spanish were shipping their treasures from Mexico and Central America. They used the trade routes along the Florida coast. Those waters were full of pirates as well as British warships. Imagine what the British could have done to the Spanish trade routes if they controlled those waters instead?

SW: An interesting historical twist.

D: Yes, I think I just gave myself an idea for a new novel.

SW: Now that we’ve established a bit of the history, tell us about the story itself. Was there really a Gabriella Deza daughter of the Spanish governor?

D: No, there wasn’t. I tried very hard not to pattern her after a real person and did hours of research to find a name not common to the area. If Gabriella resembles any historical person, it’s purely coincidental.

SW: Give us a brief synopsis of your story.

D: The story opens in the spring of 1739 and Gabriella is almost fifteen. After an accident injures both Manuel, her father’s confidential aid, and Governor Deza, Gabriella is staying at the hospital to help care for them. She overhears a conversation between two British spies. They are talking about an attack on St. Augustine.

SW: What does she do?

D: She runs to tell her father, but he’s unconscious. Instead, she goes to Manuel. However, after a brief and very embarrassing conversation with him, it slips her mind.

SW: How could talking to Manuel make her forget something that important?

D: He is nearly naked, very handsome, well built and charming. Keep in mind, she’s only fourteen and he is an older man. She’s so flattered that he has shown interest in her, she simply forgets.

SW: How much older is he?

D: Manuel is twenty-one.

SW: Isn’t that a little old for her? She’s just a child.

D: Perhaps by today’s standards, but back then girls married young and their husbands were often even older than Manuel. It wasn’t unusual for a girl her age to marry a man in his thirties.

SW: Does she ever remember the conversation she overheard?

D: No, but when she is sick with a fever, she reveals everything to Manuel and her father. Armed with this information, they set a trap for the spy, but by mischance, Gabriella is caught in it. She is kidnapped by the spy, escapes and is rescued by a band of friendly Indians. Now Manuel must find her and get her back. Then he has to bring the spy to justice so they can be married.

SW: I trust it all works out?

D: You’ll have to read “Indian Summer” to find out. But I will say I do like happy endings.

SW: Dellani, thank you so much for talking with me today.

D: I’m delighted to. Thank you for inviting me.


Dellani Oakes’ book, “Indian Summer” is available at It is also available at

Halloween Treats is out from Liquid Silver Books!

October 28, 2008 By: Guestauthor Category: Guest Blogger, Latest News 5 Comments →

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I don’t know if it’s the candy, the brisk nights, the ghost stories or the costume parties, but I love celebrating it and I love writing about it even more. That’s why I’m so thrilled to be in the new Liquid Silver Books  Halloween anthology, Halloween Treats.  If you love Halloween – or witches, ghosts, zombies and shifters – you definitely won’t want to miss this collection of erotic and spooky fun.

I’m Veronica Wilde and my story is called It’s A Wonderful Fright. Yep, it’s a witchy Halloween version of the Christmas classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Only my version involves hexes, graveyards, two beautiful witches fighting over the same man and some very hot male sex slaves. Read on for the titles and blurbs of all three stories….

It’s a Wonderful Fright by Veronica WildeWillow’s always been a good witch… until a bad witch hexes her sex life on Halloween.Now she’s ready to throw her old life away for the thrill of working dark magic on every man she desires. To convince her otherwise, a pair of ghostly guides gives her a taste of her life as a cruel and sexy hex mistress – a life of necromancy, debauchery and some very submissive male slaves. But when Willow falls for the one man she can’t have in her powerful new world, she realizes that her old life was a wonderful fright indeed.Zombies Are People Too by Tiffany AaronWhat’s a girl to do when she’s on the trail of the biggest news story of her life?Tarsala Jones, Private Investigator and journalist, has spent over a year searching out the origin of the Halloween zombie virus. Tarsala is sure there’s a sinister reason behind the outbreak. Before she can find the culprit, she has to deal with a libel suit against her.

Christopher LaRoi has the distasteful job of delivering the papers his sister-in-law filed against Tarsala Jones for libel. Personally, he believes zombies are monsters, no longer human, even though his brother was one of those creatures. Chris prides himself on being in control at all times, but Tarsala blows him out of the water with her smart mouth and gorgeous body. His body and mind reeling, he vows to stay as far away from the Jones woman as he can.

Impossible when Tarsala appears everywhere Chris goes. Is she following him or is she following the trail of the zombie virus?

Familiar Magic by AJ Hampton

With only two days until the full moon, Trenton Gregory realizes he’s got a lot more to worry about then being the Area Enforcer. Samantha Monroe, his destined mate, wants him to be her familiar. Fighting hormones and a pack of wolves who want him dead, the real challenge will be making it to Halloween in one piece. 

Are you a fan of Halloween? Do you dress up and if so, do you go for sexy and scary? Share your plans for this weekend here…  

Where Do Story Ideas Come From? Or, The Invention of The Rogue And The Rival

October 27, 2008 By: Guestauthor Category: Guest Blogger, Latest News 13 Comments →

Dreams. The stork. “The story idea store.” Every author has a different answer to this, but it usually amounts to the same thing: “I dunno. I just get ‘em.” For me it’s a two-part process. One day when I’m not thinking about it something occurs to me and I think, “That oughtta be in a romance novel. That would make for a good story.” And then maybe I remember it or maybe I don’t. If the idea does stick around, I start to flesh it out and see if the story is big enough to sustain a novel–and one that I would want to read and write.

The Rogue and The Rival, my newest novel, was conceived when a sentence popped into my head one day: Time had been good to Phillip Kensington, Marquis Huntley, even though he certainly did not deserve it.

The Phillip in the aforementioned sentence was the villainous twin of my debut novel, The Heir And The Spare. In an early draft of the story he died in the end. But because of that sentence, I wondered what might happen if he lived instead. Just wondered. After all, first lines of novels are hard to come by, so it seemed a shame to throw a good one away without fully considering its possibilities. All I needed was the rest of the story!

But first I needed the perfect heroine for a man like Phillip. He had, according to Lady Palmerston, the negligent chaperone of my series, ruined four girls. Wouldn’t it be a perfect twist of fate and divine poetic justice for him to fall in love with a woman who had been ruined by a different man? A woman who would certainly know better than to dally with the likes of Phillip.

And where might our villain-turned-hero find such a woman? She would probably have been cast out of society for her transgression, so he wouldn’t find her in the ballrooms of London. Perhaps she worked at inn? Or as a seamstress? Or perhaps a little cottage tucked way on the outskirts of town? Or what about an abbey? Aha!

I had the hero (a rake being reformed), the heroine (a woman learning to love again), and the setting (an abbey—the perfect place for reformation, forgiveness, and faith). There was much more work to be done—like figuring out how he ended up in the abbey, inventing her life story, and including re-writing Phillip’s death scene so that he lives.

One burst of inspiration and lots of daydreaming resulted in a novel that was a delight to write. Of course it didn’t happen as neatly I described. It involved a lot of started and abandoned word documents, a lot of scraps of paper with lines or thought scribbled on the, and a lot of day dreaming.

Do you ever come up with story ideas or did you wonder where they came from? Do you write them down?

I’ll be popping in today to answer your comments and I’ll be chatting with the Romance Junkies on November 16th and 9 pm. Stop by and say hello!

~~Maya Rodale

Reader question of the week

October 26, 2008 By: Romance Junkies Category: Guest Blogger, Latest News 13 Comments →

Who is your favorite hero/heroine? Is there one thing about a hero/heroine that you can’t stand?

Author Question of the Week

October 26, 2008 By: Romance Junkies Category: Guest Blogger, Latest News 5 Comments →

What kinds of research do you do for your books? What is your most valuable resource? What is the most interesting thing you have learned while researching for a book you were writing?

Claire Collins interview

October 26, 2008 By: Romance Junkies Category: Book trailers No Comments →

Check out the interview with Claire Collins and other book trailers

REDEMPTION by Sharon Cullen

October 24, 2008 By: Guestauthor Category: Guest Blogger, Latest News 5 Comments →

RedemptionHello, everyone and happy Friday! I don’t know about all of you but it’s finally feeling like fall here in Ohio and I’m loving it! The trees are turning gorgeous colors, the air is crisp, Halloween decorations are everywhere. Yeap, definitely fall. And the holidays just around the corner. Sigh. My favorite time of the year.

Let me introduce myself. I am Sharon Cullen, author of romantic suspense, paranormal romance and contemporary romance. This week my seventh novel was released and to my excitement shot straight to #3 on MBaM’s bestseller list (Whoo hoo!). Redemption is the second story in my ‘Love on the Edge’ series and is about a man who is so tortured he’s given up on life until a woman literally crashes into his front yard and turns it all around.

The main character, John Callahan, was introduced in Deception (the first book in the series but you don’t have to read them in order). As soon as John popped onto the page I knew he would somehow have his own story, yet I didn’t know what that story would be. All I knew about John was that he was the Sheriff of the small town of Catawba Lake, he had served with Luke (the hero of Deception), and he didn’t touch women. Why he didn’t touch women I didn’t know and it was my job to find out. Of course I’m not going to tell you here ’cause I want you to read the story (evil grin).

So when it came time to write John’s story I had a hard time picking a heroine for him. Obviously, since he didn’t touch women, she would have to be a woman who needed to be touched. And because he avoided women at all costs, I decided to up his conflict and make his heroine pregnant. Yup, John’s woman is pregnant and running for her life to the only man who can save her and her baby. To a man who has given up on life.

I had my conflict. I had my villain (the same villain from Deception. Two hot heroes and one evil villain. Have I hooked you yet?)

I’m a write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer so as I’m writing I’m discovering the story just like a reader would–as it develops. I wrote the entire first few chapters not knowing the heroine’s name. I had no idea what to name her and since she didn’t have any memory (did I forget to mention that? A pregnant heroine, running for her life, with no memory), it didn’t really matter what her name was.

Side note: When it came time for my edits, my editor told me I did a great job of writing those first chapters without revealing the heroine’s name. I didn’t tell her it was because I didn’t know her name.

So my first few chapters are written and I have a vague idea where this story is going, but no name for my heroine. I’m lying in bed one night and I say, “Okay, John. I need to know her name. What’s her name?” And he says to me plain as day, “She is my hope.” (yeah, my my characters and I hold conversations).

And that was it.


I had my heroine’s name. Ironic, isn’t it, how things turn out? Here is a man, who at the beginning of the book had lost all hope, was ready to end everything, and he is given hope. Literally.

There’s a lot of action after that. A really evil, nasty villain, the return of Luke and Kate from Deception and another recurring character, Eric, who will get his own story soon.

And that is how Redemption came to be what it is today. It’s a story of h(H)ope and survival. And love.

If you want to know more about John, he’ll be blogging at Sandra Barkevich’s blog this Saturday, October 25th.

If you want to know more about Redemption, here is the blurb:

Running for her life…to a man who’d given up on it.

“Go to Callahan.”

Pregnant, alone—and with no memory of who she is—these words are the only thing Hope can hang onto as she drives through a blizzard, searching for the reclusive Callahan. And when she finds him, she’s not sure which of them is more in need of help and healing.

Haunted by the brutal murder of the woman he loved, the last thing John Callahan needs on his hands is an injured pregnant woman. But with the storm bearing down, he has no choice. Opening his home to her, though, turns out to be far from simple. Her unconditional acceptance of him, scars and all, opens windows to his soul he thought were forever sealed.

Then he discovers Hope’s true identity, and realizes his past—and a powerful enemy—has come back to haunt them both. Even as he races against time to save her, John has to wonder…

Is Hope his redemption? Or his downfall?

If you’re interested in purchasing Redemption, you can do so here. And if you’d like to visit me, here is my website and my blog. Stop by and drop me a note!


Love Bytes

October 22, 2008 By: Guestauthor Category: Contests, Guest Blogger 12 Comments →

Hi! My name is Rhonda Lee and I’m so excited to be here. I did a live chat with Romance Junkies a couple weeks ago and it left me wanting more. So much more, in fact, that I couldn’t decide what to write about, my Eternal Press novel The Duchess, the ebook I’m giving away, Love Bytes, or the amazing contest I’m participating it on Friday. In the end, I’ve decided to go with all three.

I’m participating in a trivia contest that begins on Friday, October 24th. Several amazing Eternal Press authors will be participating. All of us will be posting ten trivia questions for you to answer via email and putting up different prizes for the lucky person who wins. What do you win? That’s what everyone always wants to know, well, let me tell you, I don’t know what everyone else is giving away, but for my part, the prize I’m offering is a custom-written short story (for more details click the ‘trivia contest’ link above) and a copy of The Duchess.

In order to win all you need to do is email me the answers to my ten trivia questions, and in order to know the answers to the questions, you will need to read my free erotic ebook Love Bytes  and check out the killer excerpts from my novel, The Duchess. Excerpts like the spicy one below.


“Don’t you want to touch me, Ferrin?” she purred, extending one curved fingernail and letting it trail across his shoulder. It caught upon the rough homespun fabric of his shirt and stuttered its way across his back. Each tiny jolt resonated throughout his entire being.


The duchess paused, stopping directly in front of him and looking at him with that now familiar quirked eyebrow,”Yes, what?”

“Yes, I want to touch you.”

A feral smile spread across her lips and he dropped his gaze to the ground, ashamed of himself, of his lack of willpower, but unwilling to take back the words he’d just spoken.

At that precise moment, she knew she had him; he was hers to do with as she wanted—whatever she wanted. Whatever she dared. The possibilities made butterflies erupt in her stomach and her pussy tingle. They straightened her back, added steel to her voice. The purr vanished and her words became sharp, crisp commands. Ferrin had given up any chance of wielding even the slightest bit of control in this situation.

“Then touch me peasant.”


 Enjoy, and I hope to see your entries in the trivia contest come Monday. I’ll be drawing a winner’s name on Halloween so you’ve lots of time to head over and enter.


Love those men “Down in Texas” by Delilah Devlin

October 21, 2008 By: Guestauthor Category: Guest Blogger, Latest News 35 Comments →

Psst! Be sure to read the end of this post for news about a special contest!

I know I’m late! I had a really good excuse though for not posting earlier. I just got back in town from a research trip in North Arkansas. So, I’m catching up with email and trying to get back to work on a couple of projects I left “mid-stroke” so to speak! :)

One of the emails I found was a lovely review for the book I have coming out at the end of this month with Kensington Aphrodisia. RJ’s Chrissy Dionne gave DOWN IN TEXAS five Blue Ribbons!!! The review isn’t posted yet, but here’s a snippet of what she had to say:

“Delilah Devlin’s DOWN IN TEXAS is a fabulous anthology that kept my attention throughout each and every story. Each story flows easily into the next because the majority of the characters are present throughout each of them. The stories are all special in their own right but together they’re truly spectacular. The Tynan and McDonough families are honorable and strong families and reading about how they find and set about holding onto their significant other makes me just a little envious. Ms. Devlin has proved herself a capable storyteller before but with DOWN IN TEXAS she’s cemented a place on my ‘most watched authors’ list.”

I couldn’t be more thrilled that the book is getting a fabulous response from everyone who’s reviewed it so far. I know, every book a writer creates is special, but this Texas story is very near and dear to my heart. I moved from Texas last year and wrote it while I was feeling a little homesick. When I wrote the last word, I knew I had something special.

I hope you’ll all give the book a chance and pick it up when it releases on October 28th. I’d love for you to read a little of the story in order to tempt you, but I’m not sure how sexy I can get on this blog–so, I’ll play it safe and tell you there are plenty of excerpts on my blog from the last several day’s postings, and you can also read the opening chapter on my website. To celebrate the release, be sure to visit my blog for the next week as I continue my countdown to the release of the book. I’m giving away free books, beaded bookmarks, gift cards, etc. Any comment you post here will count as a contest entry too!! ~DD


October 20, 2008 By: Guestauthor Category: Guest Blogger, Latest News 5 Comments →

Hello All

I am Romona Hilliger, author of Romantic-Suspense.

Thank you very much to the Romance Junkies Blog Team for this opportunity to tell you about my new release at  CHAMPAGNE BOOKS 

Soldier GirlTHE SOLDIER’S GIRL   ISBN 978-1-897445-34-1

Contemporary   Rating v. sensual 

Set in rural Victoria, at the very southern edge of mainland


Bryce has forsaken everything, even Kate, the love of his life since childhood, and all for the sake of his career in medicine. His obsession is not for fame or money, but to bring health to underprivileged, indigenous children in the far remote regions of
Northern Australia.   

Frank, the returned war hero from Iraq, wants Kate because he can’t have her. She still loves Bryce. But the brutality of war has twisted Frank’s mind and he’ll stoop to anything to snare her love. 

Will Bryce and Kate ever find a way through the heartache that their separate ways has brought them?  Or will they have to accept that the bonds they forged as children were not meant to last into adulthood.    




YouTube Preview Image

EXCERPT.                        THE SOLDIER’S GIRL

First chapter.

 *** Wakefulness brought realisation and with it, the grim reality that today was ‘make or break’ time. 
Katherine Morgan rose and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. On silent bare feet, she padded across the bedside carpet and polished wooden floor to the window. She flung it wide to the sweet morning air of Dongala and breathed in its purity. The small rural town in Victoria, with its green, gently sloping hills, was located at the very bottom edge of Australia. The earthy smell of freshly turned soil, abundant-flowing rivers, sheep, dairy cattle and vast fields of waving grain; these were things that made her hometown so special. But today, her spirits sagged depressingly; the decision she had to make would influence the rest of her life and her stomach clutched in cold anticipation. If only she’d left things as they were, then, life would still be simple and uncomplicated.

     The five councillors from the Dongala City Council, gathered at the apron of the dirt airstrip. Kate stood with the crowd gathered in the small building that served as an airport lounge. There was an atmosphere of festivity as the buzz of chatter mingled with the sounds from outside where the school band practiced with brash notes on bagpipes and drums. Frank Davis, Dongala’s sole but proud contribution to Australia’s efforts in the Iraq war, was coming home on leave today.

     In all the hustle and bustle, Kate spotted Bryce Collard and her heart leapt until reality smacked her flat in the face. She watched him stop to talk to people. Well-liked, they were glad to see him, and with eager smiles on their faces, they clapped him on the back in affection. 

     She willed herself to remain calm despite her foolishly racing heart. After last night she must not show her emotions, not ever again. She hung back in the area of the airport lounge that was marked OFFICE and though she was making every effort to put the final touches to the “welcome home” banner she’d been working on, her trembling fingers hampered her to the point of being a fumbling mess.
     Funny, how things had just happened; Bryce was in Dongala, too. He and Frank had been best mates since their school days and it was fitting that he be here on this special occasion.

     “Been a long time since the boys first went away.”
     Kate turned. It was Mr. Collard, Bryce’s father. Stooped and gaunt after his long bouts of illness, he leaned on the work-bench she was working at.
     “Hello Mr. Collard, nice to see you out and about,” Kate smiled.
     Mr. Collard turned and, better to brace himself, rested his behind against the bench. “Bryce, my dear son, insisted I come and join in the celebration.”

     “Yes. Ten years in fact,” Kate continued. “Soon after they left high school.”
     “Aye, Kate. Both lads set off to carve out the careers they aspired to. Barely twenty at the time. Bryce gone off to study medicine in Melbourne, and then, to specialise in paediatrics in America.” 
     Kate gave him a glance as he reminisced quietly, but his tone and eyes bursting with pride. 
      He shook his head. “That long time gone, it knocked me up some, I can tell you,” he sighed. “Still, I admire his commitment, and I’m proud of him.”
     Kate studied the drawn and saddened face. Everybody knew only too well how close father and son had been, and how Bryce leaving home had devastated his father.
      “And Frank gone off to join the army,” her voice took on a keen edge, in the hope of changing the subject and softening the hurt in his eyes. But bar a faint smile in politeness, she knew it hadn’t worked.
     No. She too, still recalled that time with a heavy heart. From as far back as she could remember she’d worshipped Bryce and still did, but he’d never shown any more than a ‘shared-childhood’ interest in her. He thought of nothing but being a doctor. His obsession was not for fame or money but to bring health to the indigenous children in the remote regions of Northern Australia. Now he was back, albeit one of his rare visits, with his father the only reason. He hadn’t changed much. Except for the tan derived from the tropical Queensland sun, and it only served to enhance his masculinity. Tall and broad-shouldered, with deep-blue, smiling eyes that matched the smile on his lips, gave him the kind of sensuality that women found hard to resist. And as he’d always done, he wore it all with such ease, as though he wasn’t even aware of how his maleness could have had such a devastating effect on the female gender.
     Kate risked another glance at Bryce. He’d stopped to talk to one of the councillors and was now coming toward her. The very sight of him brought back that old longing that refused to be extinguished. His dark, short-clipped hair revealing his small well-shaped ears and the turn of that handsome jaw was held in a strong and determined line. Bryce was a stunning contrast to Frank’s boyish good looks. A blast of red hair and brown eyes with pinpoints of mischief dancing in them. But in Bryce’s long absences it was the gregarious Frank who displayed more than a platonic keenness in her and gradually he’d helped her heal from the loss of Bryce, at least, cushion its sharpness, and they’d started going together.
      “Well, Frank’s plane is due, so, I’ll go wait outside with the others,” Mr. Collard said, standing up and dusting off the seat of his pants. “Come visit some time Kate, it would be lovely to see you.”
     “Thank you, I’d love that,” she smiled and watched him walk away, then made another assault on the last of the gold cords she was working with.
     “Hello Kate.” 
     She stiffened at the sound of that deep clear voice. She looked up, way up, and into that brilliant smile.
      “Bryce,” she responded quietly, her voice barely a quiver riding up from a throat that was so stricken with mixed feelings, it caught and choked.
     Bryce studied her face. He understood how she felt about the whole sorry situation, because he’d been there with her, too. A short but deeply poignant situation, that didn’t die just because they had ended it the night before.
     “The banner done?” he said, idly as though that was all that mattered, while his gut ached as if he’d been hit hard, right in the solar-plexus. “I was told to collect it from here. I wasn’t aware that you—”

      Still smarting from their long and painful parting of the night before, she returned sharply. “Yes, I’m the one getting the thing together.” She could hide her anger and pain from him but not her passion and if she didn’t watch out, it would be her undoing, so, she was glad of the moment they snatched to lapse into silent reflection, each of their own hurt.

     To indulge his long-denied love for this woman who’d always tortured him with her gentle charm. The innocence of it.  Every move she made, the way she walked, the smoky tone of her voice. The delicate bone structure of her face, the evocative aroma of her hair and the breath-taking seduction of breasts, now truly a woman’s, thrusting erotically against the soft silk of her blouse.  He gave a short laugh that he hoped would disguise his own painful emotions. “Seems like only yesterday that we were all still at school, and look at Frank now. A war hero,” he remarked, with naked pride in his old friend.
     Kate knew he was trying to keep the conversation on a safe level but it wasn’t that easy for her. “Frank and you were good mates,” she said, a little too brightly. “You still are!” she plunged on, with unexpected vehemence.

     Bryce swallowed hard, he knew what she was getting at, but he wouldn’t rise to it. He’d just let the ensuing pause linger without further comment that he knew, would only erupt into a heart-breaking scene.  

     Kate worked at the banner a little more furiously. No, he wasn’t going to let anything destroy that mate-ship and she realised the thought of it was stirring her to fury born of frustration. She had to stay calm and to achieve that, she might as well talk.

      “All those years ago, Frank became restless after you left. That’s why he joined the army. Did he ever tell you? He wanted to serve his country. Do something worthwhile. Like you. You two always stuck up for each other—”  she broke off, and the piteous way she’d strung all those sentences together, brought Bryce close to breaking his resolve to let her go from his life.  
     “You were precious to us too. Five years younger, we always looked out for you.”
      Precious? A moment of hope soared in her heart then it came crashing down again, like a dying man in a desert who thinks he’s seen water. No. It wasn’t the ‘precious’ she yearned for. “How could I forget?” she said, brushing aside her disappointment. “The way you sailed into that big Buckley boy who tried to grab me at the high school party…”
     Bryce’s arms ached at his sides, he was hardly able to restrain his desire to drag her into his embrace, press her to his heart, and hold her there. Her gaze fused with his and he was on a collision of guilt and desire. “I couldn’t stand anyone else even touching you,” he said, his voice unusually rough.    
      “Those were good days,” Kate smiled, pretending she didn’t care. “Along with the other kids we’d all go swimming and fishing together and those football games we’d cheer you and Frank on until we were hoarse.”
     His presence was elating her and she felt the stir of stimulation, a gentle pulse within the sensitive part below her belly, so heady and warm. She cast her eyes down. She had to refrain from the bittersweet pleasure of brushing against him, as he stood not two feet away. “Bryce, I loved you even then. Didn’t you know?” she said, her eyes slowly lifting to meet his, and in their bleakness, she saw his bared soul. It made her want to cry.
     Bryce bit on his bottom lip. Lying to her would solve nothing. He might just as well tell her the truth. 


    *** Bryce shivered and pulled the collar of his jacket up around his neck. “You can say that again.”
     The pilot grinned. “Well apart from that, nothing much has changed in Dongala,” he said. Bryce returned his smile and moved on toward the gateway.
 He wasn’t thinking of the changes in Dongala, or its weather, his mind was focused on Kate.

     Since the last time he’d been here and Frank’s homecoming from Iraq, he’d had no contact with Kate, but he could never completely erase her from his mind. There was always something that kept the thread of memory burning and alive. That picture of her when they’d been fishing and she was barely twelve years old. He had no idea why he still carried it in his wallet, nor why he’d never been able to sling the picture out. He had others of Kate. Group photographs as she’d matured to young womanhood, but something in this old photograph seemed always to haunt him. Something in the way she was looking up at him. The pleading in her face as though she needed him to say something that would take her pain away. The way she cuddled lovingly against his arm. Why hadn’t he noticed? Why had he always dismissed her affection as some childish ploy for his attention? Why did he see it only now? A tender love rejected and so painfully held within her, while his obsession for his work and loyalty to his friend had consumed him. Bryce walked the short distance from the airstrip to the town centre and from there he intended to just keep going on home.

     There was nobody to meet him as he hadn’t told his parents that he was coming for this one last visit before heading to an even more remote location. This time it was in the northernmost part of the Kimberley region of Western Australia as head of the health unit. He thought of the hope his father had held that he’d come back to Dongala to stay. But now, he was heading even further away, and though his father and mother were aware of it, face-to-face was a different matter. He knew he’d hate the underlying look of pain he’d see in his father’s eyes. The stalwart man, who despite his grief at losing his son to medicine and distant places never reproached him, rather always encouraged him. Bryce felt the stab of pain in his heart. Though he didn’t come home often, he always held in his heart, the wonderful times he’d spent in company with his father.
     Bryce slung his back-pack over his shoulder and hitched it across to hook his other arm through. Deep in thought and head down, he sauntered along the familiar road through town, now and again responding to waves of welcome and shouts in greeting, until he reached the end and was passing the pub.

     “Bryce,” called a familiar voice. His head shot up and Bryce turned to peer into the smoky dimness of the bar and there was Frank making his way toward him. Once more they slapped backs and laughed their greetings. “How’re you going mate?” they each cried out in unison and before he knew it, Frank in his eagerness, had Bryce by the arm.
     “Have a beer before you head off,” he insisted, dragging Bryce into the pub. 

    “This early, Frank?” Bryce grinned, taking in the few diehard drinkers crouching over their drinks.

    “It’s 4 o’clock,” he said taking a glance at his watch. “The sun’s at the yardarm, well near enough. Gets dark earlier in winter,” he laughed. “Besides, I’m celebrating. Haven’t you heard?  Kate and I are getting married day after tomorrow. You’re just in time for the wedding, pal. Did you know?”

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