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Authors: Eva Scott

Red Dust Dreaming

BOOK: Red Dust Dreaming
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Red Dust Dreaming

Eva Scott

www.escapepublishing.com.au

Red Dust Dreaming

Eva Scott

In the battle of duty versus desire, only one can survive the hot Australian sunshine.

Elizabeth Langtree has her life in order – safe, organised, planned. Sure, she has her troubles, but they are nothing she can't handle. Then everything is turned upside down when her family send her to Australia to collect her orphaned nephew.

It all seemed so straightforward in New York, but Australia is nothing like she expected, and she soon falls under the spell of the Outback – the station, the lifestyle, and the seriously sexy owner who has been caring for Luke since the death of his mother.

Elizabeth soon discovers that what seemed simple a world away is anything but, and her duty is at odds with the dictates of her heart. She must choose, knowing that a mistake will not only cost her everything, but destroy the future of a devastated little boy.

About the Author

Eva Scott lives with her family in South East Queensland. She has written both historical and contemporary romance novels and when she's not writing you can find her down at the beach, in a shoe shop or at a cafe.

Acknowledgements

A big thank you to Dr Sally Butler, Senior Lecturer in Art History at the University of Queensland for her generous gift of time and knowledge about Aboriginal Art and the Warlukurlangu Community of Yuendumu in the Northern Territory.

And thank you to my husband, Guy, for his invaluable knowledge of the Tanami Track.

To the amazing artists of Warlukurlangu whose art work inspired this story.

For more information on the artists and their work please visit
http://warlu.com/

Contents

About the Author

Acknowledgements

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

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Bestselling Titles by Escape Publishing…

Chapter 1

“You just gonna stand there all day, or are you gonna make yourself useful?” Thelma, Caden Carlyle's temporary housekeeper and honorary auntie, stood with her hands on her ample hips. He turned to face her and saw her expression change as he did so.

“What's wrong? What's happened?” The concern in her voice told him he could hide nothing from her. She'd known him since he'd been in nappies. Nothing much got past Thelma.

He stood in the kitchen doorway staring out across the yard to where five-year old Luke played with one of the stockmen's sons. The two little boys chased each other about the homestead garden whooping and hollering, deep in some imaginary world only they could see. He watched them for a long moment while the ground shifted beneath his feet.

He clutched the crumpled letter in one fist as his heart pounded in his ears. No matter how tightly he crushed the paper he could not erase the words contained there. They announced change. They heralded the fight of his life. They brought heartbreak to his door, yet again.

Thelma bustled over and pried the bedraggled letter from his hand, smoothing it out on the kitchen table. The sunlight streaming in through the window picked out the threads of grey in her hair as she slowly read the letter once and then again. Thelma turned to him, her face stricken. “They're coming for him?” she whispered. It was as much a statement as a question.

Caden sighed and ran his hands over his face and through his hair in a gesture of the weariness lodged in his bones. “Yeah,” he said, “they're coming for him.”

***

Her parents' choice of holiday house was the one subject Elizabeth Langtree and her parents agreed upon. She tipped her head back against the comfy sofa chair, closed her eyes and let the sound of the ocean have its soothing way with her. Every summer, to her great approval, her parents headed for the Hamptons with its long sandy beaches, rambling homes and the promise of escape. The invitation to join them this weekend came as a welcome change from the sweltering heat of New York. She didn't get to come here as often as she liked. Her parents weren't the kind of folk one dropped in on unannounced and invitations were few and far between.

“Darling, do take your feet off the fabric, please.” Her mother's plaintive voice shattered Elizabeth's hard won calm. Automatically she slid her bare feet to the floor.

“Sorry Mother,” she muttered, immediately reduced to a recalcitrant six year old instead of a grown woman. Sylvia Langtree perched daintily on the edge of the sofa, her feet crossed at her ankles. At sixty-one she was still a strikingly beautiful woman, a template of lady-like elegance Elizabeth despaired of ever emulating. Conscious of her tousled hair and crumpled shorts, Elizabeth sat up straight and clasped her hands in her lap.

“Ah! There you are dear.” A warm hand cupped Elizabeth's cheek and a firm kiss landed on top of her head.

“Hi Dad,” she said relaxing for a second into the palm of his hand before its warmth disappeared. She was relieved to see him. Gerald Langtree possessed an affable air belying his killer instinct as a corporate lawyer. He radiated warmth, an offset to her mother's coolness.

He walked around the sofa into her view and sat down beside Sylvia. He took his wife's hand in his, lacing their fingers together. Elizabeth's heart constricted for a moment. After being single for so long she wondered if she would she ever find an enduring love of her own. Her parents were as much in love now as when they met forty years ago, while solo life seemed to stretch on forever before her.

A look passed between them and Elizabeth's internal alarm system went on alert. Okay, here it comes. The real reason I've been invited down for the weekend. She braced herself. Time had taught her everything in the Langtree household had a price.

“So what can I do for you?” she asked sweetly, pre-empting the request.

“Why do you always assume we want something from you?” Her mother sounded affronted.

“Well…”

“Now ladies. There is no need to bicker.” Gerald patted his wife on the knee in a motion designed to sooth. “Elizabeth is right we do want to ask a favour; a very important favour, something to benefit the family.”

The family. So they were invoking that sacred cow. “Okay, I'm listening,” she said. What other choice did she really have?

“As you know, your sister Angela had a son.” Sylvia pressed her lips together in a little gesture of disapproval she made every time Angela's name passed her lips, then hesitated a moment before going on. “Through the efforts of a private investigator we've managed to locate the boy.”

“Really?” Elizabeth leaned forward, eager for more information. “Where is he?”

“In the Outback,” said Gerald.

“The what? Outback of where exactly?” Elizabeth had never heard of such a place. Where on earth had Angela ended up?

“The godforsaken middle of Australia, that's where,” sighed Sylvia, one manicured hand clutching at the string of pearls around her neck. “Trust Angela to find the most inaccessible, bleak place on earth to run away to.”

“Sylvia dear, it does no good to upset yourself or to speak ill of…” Gerald didn't finish his sentence. He didn't have to.

Her mother closed her eyes for a long dramatic moment. “Yes, you're right.” She opened her eyes and gave her husband a loving smile. Taking a deep breath, she continued. “It seems Angela took a position on a cattle ranch as a housekeeper or something equally absurd. The child is there being cared for by the rancher and his people. It's an intolerable situation that must—”

“What your mother is trying to say,” Gerald cut Sylvia off before she could go any further, “is little Luke should be here in New York with his family. He's a Langtree no matter what and he belongs with the family.”

No matter what. A not so subtle reference to the father of Angela's child. “When's he arriving?” Elizabeth asked, already planning outings for the two of them. They could go to the zoo, the Statue of Liberty… How old would Luke be now? Five or six? She'd lost track of time just as they had all lost track of Angela.

“That's the thing,” said Sylvia.

“The thing is…”said Gerald.

The penny dropped. “Oh! I get it. You want me to go and get Luke. Is that the thing?” Elizabeth flopped back on to the sofa. Of course they wanted her to go and get their grandson. Sylvia wasn't the sort of creature who did well out of her natural habitat. “So where is this Outback again? Australia?” Couldn't be so bad. Great beaches and hot surfers, so she'd heard. Lord knew she could do with a holiday.

“The middle of Australia,” said Sylvia. “The desert.”

Gerald handed her a folder stuffed with documents. Taking it gingerly as if it might bite, she flipped the cover. The covering letter included a detailed travel itinerary.

“You'll leave New York for Dallas. From Dallas you'll fly to Sydney before catching a flight to Alice Springs. From there we've chartered a local pilot to take you out to the ranch.”

“But the journey will take days!” Dazed, Elizabeth looked at her parents with silent entreat. “Dad, I can't take that much time off of work,” she said when they didn't respond.

“Of course you can. I'll have your cases reassigned for the duration. I've already begun arrangements…”

“You've gone behind my back and reassigned my cases?” Outrage filled Elizabeth's voice. She wanted to rant, to yell at him. How dare he rearrange her life to suit his! The words crowded her tongue, the weight of them held her to silence. Double ham-strung by the fact her father was also her boss; making her bile a bitter pill to swallow.

“Not behind your back,” Gerald batted away her concern as he would a fly. “I'm talking to you about it now, and no one at the office with the exception of one or two key people are appraised of what's going on. You'll be assigned new cases when you return. Don't worry darling, none of this will impact your career.” He gave her one of his most dazzling smiles. Not for the first time she noted how much he looked like a matinee idol, George Peppard without the cigar.

“What nonsense! Of course you're going,” said Sylvia. “Who else is there? You owe it to the family.”

Elizabeth focused on the travel documents on her lap. She owed her family a debt that would never be repaid it seemed. For a second she envied Angela. Her sister had at least found her freedom before she died. “It says here I leave Tuesday.”

“That's my girl!” Gerald spoke as if she'd passed a particularly tricky exam or taken a challenging jump on her pony, not a grown woman being shanghaied into doing her parents' dirty work.

“They know I'm coming?” she asked. The idea of being so isolated amongst potentially hostile company, was not a pleasant one.

“Yes, I've written to say Luke will be returned to us until the legalities are finalised. I'm unclear as to the terms of Angela's will with regard to Luke's custodianship but we, as grandparents, have rights I intend to pursue,” said Gerald.

“Yes, I'm sure,” she murmured. Returned. None of them had ever seen a picture of Luke let alone met the child so he was hardly being returned to them.

“The other documents in the file will give you some background to this point. Our investigator has been very thorough.” Sylvia sounded proud, as if the private investigator's prowess reflected upon her.

Elizabeth flicked through the papers quickly noting the amount of detailed information. She stopped at a photo of a small boy. Sliding the page out, she looked for the first time into the smiling eyes of her nephew. Her throat constricted as unshed tears threatened to spill. Luke. He looked so much like Angela with his dark blonde hair and brilliant blue eyes, and yet there was much that was not of Langtree stock. A slightly crooked grin and a dimple. Whoever his father had been he'd had something going for him that was for sure. Regret mingled with grief left a sour taste in her mouth. “How did the investigator get this picture if the ranch is so remote?”

BOOK: Red Dust Dreaming
6.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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