His Brand of Beautiful

Free His Brand of Beautiful by Lily Malone

Book: His Brand of Beautiful by Lily Malone Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lily Malone
It was the first time he could remember them not being clawed into her seat. “I know why you’re still single. Kidnapping. Abduction...”
    She fell silent again and after a while, he thought she’d fallen asleep.
    Far ahead, he saw the first lazy smoke plumes rising from the desert floor. Coober Pedy’s opal mines. He checked his speed. The change in the engine’s vibration roused Christina.
    “Where are we?”
    “We’re stopping for fuel at Coober Pedy.”
    “A fuel stop?”
    “That’s right.”
    “To go where?” The silver eye of her ring glinted.
    He hesitated. He didn’t put it past her to jump ship at Coober Pedy airport if he told her the truth. “If I’m going to consult for you, I need to know you’re up for this wild brand you want. So I thought we’d go camping.”
    “Camping.” She said it like he’d told her they were flying to the moon. “I thought you said you’d have me home tonight.”
    “I didn’t mean your home. I meant mine. We’re visiting my family’s cattle station.”
    The airport lay ahead, planes outside the terminal like a line of white crosses from the air.
    Christina leaned forward in her seat, peering out over the Jabiru’s nose. “Is that thing a terminal or a toilet block?”
    “Don’t let the locals hear you say that. They’re very proud of their new terminal,” he said.
    “New terminal, my arse.” She re‐glued her hands to the seat. “That thing’s got crapper written all over it.”

Chapter 7

    She woke with a jolt beside him. “Sorry?”
    “I said it’s twenty‐two degrees on the ground at Binara today.”
    Christina sat straighter. Cauliflower clouds that had blanketed the sky most of the day had burned‐off after Coober Pedy and now the sun raked through the passenger window. Tate had watched it shine off her hair while she slept.
    “Did I wake you?”
    “Just resting my eyes. I didn’t sleep very well last night.” She stretched her neck to the side and stifled a yawn with the back of her hand.
    It didn’t surprise him her neck was stiff. She’d been nanna‐napping for an hour.
    “Where are we?”
    He pointed out to the right. “That’s Binara. That’s where I grew up. We’re five minutes from landing.”
    “I can’t believe we’ve flown five bloody hours to see your childhood roots.”
    “You can slap me when we land.”
    “Of all the—”
    He held his finger to his lips, like his father used to do when the kids wanted to watch cartoons and Gilbert Newell wanted to watch the news.
    Darker green dots morphed into trees marking the river, for once swollen with water and gleaming brown as it snaked south‐west.
    “That’s the homestead?”
    “Yeah, and that’s the driveway. They do a two hundred kilometre round trip to collect the mail once a week.”
    Christina’s gaze slipped to the gravel track sliding west. There were other roads too stretching away like sandy veins. She lifted her sunglasses and rechecked the view, then replaced them on the bridge of her nose. “It’s all so green.”
    “They’ve had record rains from Cyclone Yasi, remember? Lake Eyre’s flooded. That’s why you couldn’t move for tourists back at Coober Pedy airport. It’s a hub for charter flights over the lake.”
    The runway was an orange slash running parallel to the straightest stretch of river and it rushed up to meet them. Touch‐down was no gentle kiss of wheels; the strip was as soft as he’d seen it and slippery. Christina dug her nails into the seat beside him and held on.
    He taxied toward an open‐fronted iron shed housing a twin to the Jabiru, plus his father’s old Pajero. Shasta’s mustering helicopter sat on a concrete pad purpose‐built off to the side beneath the wind‐sock Jolie once dyed daffodil‐yellow, now fluttering tired and lemony on its pole. None of the family had ever thought to replace it.
    Tate shoved his door open, stepped down and stretched. The twin blades rotated in slower circles and the cooling

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