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Authors: Kathryn Ledson

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BOOK: Monkey Business
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Acknowledgements

With
Rough Diamond
, I was so bewildered and caught up in the newness of it all that I didn't really pay much attention to the process that was functioning so fluidly around me. But this time I did; rather, I paid more attention.

And so I thank Belinda Byrne, the most extraordinary, intuitive coach who asks the best questions and knows just how to draw the work out of me; eagle-eye Caro Cooper (so lucky to have you, Caro); Rhian Davies, publicity whiz and such a delight; the equally delightful Sarah Fairhall and the rest of that professional team at Penguin Australia, including Laura Thomas for her clever cover designs. And my agent, Sheila Drummond – always ready and generous with wise words, and who keeps my feet firmly planted.

James Scambury – who gave me this story and when I had trouble filling in the gaps, sat with me, waving his hands, delivering not only plot points and hilarious scenarios to consider, but also the kind of colourful detail that brings a setting to life. Thank you James for your generosity and for being so damn clever. And Julia for not minding.

Sydney Smith – brilliant and patient teacher, mentor, friend. Who helped me find direction in this novel when I would have otherwise floundered. All authors need a Sydney Smith, a story whisperer.

I'm very grateful also to these supportive friends and colleagues without whose advice, encouragement and enthusiasm I would have struggled:

For the technical detail – Dave Bilton on weapons, John McKenzie on survival (thanks Lou Holland!), Brenda Kinsella on injuries, Jarrah Loh on fighting, Sandra Nicholson on police procedures. I apologise for Erica's sometimes blatant dismissal of your careful and specific instructions. Creative licence and all that, you know. But thank you, sincerely, for your time and help.

My writing fraternity – the LLGs, in particular Kate and Troy for the extra bits you do; my fellow New Romantics: Kate Belle, Margareta Osborn and Jennifer Scoullar; Alli Sinclair who just seems to know when I'm struggling or procrastinating; Alison Sadler and Meredith Fuller for the fab photos; those powerhouses that are the Romance Writers of Australia and Sisters in Crime (Carmel Shute, who works so hard for SiC); the Australian Romance Readers Association; romance writers and readers in general – so passionate and generous; and not least the love and support that comes (even when we don't see each other much) from Siobhan Sheridan, Fotina Musumeci and Favel Parrett.

Of course, family and buddies who don't seem to mind my taking over conversations to talk about my work: my dad who is proud as punch but probably no more than when I won a ribbon at pony club; my mum who most definitely isn't Erica's mum; my clever sister, Annette Ellis, who needs to write her own book instead of feeding me fab ideas; ditto brilliant niece, Ashley Carr; the Sleeth family for their love and acceptance and particular thanks to Denise, Elizabeth, Hannah and Matt for their research assistance; Kerrie and Spook for the hilarious plotting games; and SO many friends for their overwhelming enthusiasm – I wish I could name you all.

Finally, my Number One – my hard-working hubby, Paul Sleeth. There's no chance I could do this without you, darling. What part of the planet should we research next?

MICHAEL JOSEPH

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (Australia)

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(a division of Penguin Australia Pty Ltd)

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(a division of Penguin Canada Books Inc.)

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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London, WC2R 0RL, England

First published by Penguin Group (Australia), 2013

Text copyright © Kathryn Ledson 2013

The moral right of the author has been asserted

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

Cover design by Laura Thomas © Penguin Group (Australia)

Text design by Laura Thomas © Penguin Group (Australia)

Cover images - woman silhouette: ostill / Shutterstock.com, background pattern: Adam Fahey Designs / Shutterstock.com

Illustrations - monkeys: Maxi_m /Shutterstock.com

penguin.com.au

ISBN: 978-1-74253-770-2

One

So I'm standing at my front gate and I'm soaked and it's been the worst day in history. Everything's gone wrong since I got out of bed. The milk was off. I put a finger through my brand-new tights and I don't even have fingernails. I left my umbrella at home knowing full well a storm was coming and now I can't find my keys and the rain's stinging my face.

I booted the gate open and stumbled through it, wondering why I'd forgotten to lock it. My old veranda gave no shelter. I dumped my bag on the ground and squatted over it, gazing into the abyss, hoping for a glimpse of silver, cursing the broken light and my stupid boss and the late, crowded, smelly train. ‘And,' I shouted at my bag, ‘that stupid goddamn police barricade!'

Thunder crashed and I jumped. I whipped my head around to yell at the black sky, but something caught my eye. Something snug and dry by the front door. My stupid yellow umbrella! I swiped at it, launching it into the night, and watched it land with a splat in the middle of my courtyard garden. But the sunny yellow seemed so wrong in this new, strange scene. Which contained a human shape. Lying on its side. Facing me.

Lightning lit the walled space. I thought the guy looked pretty much dead.

I squatted stiff on the doormat, gaping at the dead guy's dark form.

He lifted his head and said in a hoarse whisper, ‘No police. Please.'

‘Not dead,' I whispered back.

Fitful flashes of light froze the scene. He squinted at me through the rain. I stood slowly and glanced at the gate, which suddenly seemed a long way away. I let out my held breath in a long slow trickle, trying to be invisible, and edged towards the gate.

‘
Please help
,' he groaned.

But I dashed for the gate, wrenched it open and ran through. I stood in the gutter between parked cars, watching the gate swing shut, peering back through the wrought iron rails at my sprawled bag.
No. This is not happening.
Rain pounded my head. I gulped breaths and shaded my eyes, looking over the roofs of parked cars at the blurred flashing lights at the end of my street. I looked back at the gate, breathed in –
should've gone to the pub
– breathed out.

The lights from the police barricade flashed at the edge of my vision. In my mind I heard the man's plea. Could see his eyes. Hear sirens. One more glance down the street and I sucked in a great, deep breath as some invisible force pushed my feet forward, through the gate and up the path to my handbag. I picked it up, hugging it to my chest, and turned slowly to look at the man. He was watching me. I shuffled closer. His face was ghostly white under long straggly black hair and a beard. Dirt streaked his face. I leant in, staring at him in the erratic light as he squinted back at me. Not dirt. Blood. Watery blood seeped from his head and joined a black river that flowed from his body, across the pale pavers and into my geraniums.

‘Shit!' I groped for my phone. ‘I'll get help!'

‘
No!
' he gasped, his hand stretching towards me and I stepped back. ‘No doctors. No police. Please!' The man's fingers held a small white card. I stared at it. His hand started to shake and his breath came in quick puffs. I reached out slowly and took the card. He groaned and rolled onto his back, his head flopping to one side.

‘Are you all right?' No response. I poked him. The storm was retreating; rain stopping as abruptly as it had started an hour earlier. A dark puddle formed under the man. I tilted the card towards a street light. Through bloody fingerprints I could just make out a mobile phone number, embossed in gold. No other details, just the number.

No doctors, no police.
I found my phone and pressed 000. I looked at the phone and back at the card, my thumb hovering over the green button. The man's hand closed suddenly around my wrist. I jumped and tried to pull away but he was strong. In the weak light, his dark eyes held mine for a long moment.

‘I can't just let you die,' I whispered.

He shut his eyes and his head rocked from side to side. ‘Don't call police. National importance . . .'

I could barely hear him. I leant closer.

‘Death is better. Trust me, please,
Erica
.'

THE BEGINNING

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BOOK: Monkey Business
3.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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