By Maggie Brooke
© Maggie Brooke
260 pages / 77,000 words
Release Date: 08/08/2016
Genre(s): outback, interracial romance
Mary crawled into our tent while I was in the shower block cleaning my teeth and was softly snoring herself before I got my sleeping bag rolled out. Everyone else had been provided with a sleeping bag but I’d felt safer bringing my own. God only knew—and I didn’t want to—who or what had occurred in those provided by NT Correctional Services, Inc.
Mine had been purchased at Paddy Pallin along with my rucksack and was filled with down, guaranteed to be warm in winter and cool in summer. Considering what I’d paid for it, I fully expected to be comfortable. It had been such a big day with such an early start that I was sure I’d be unconscious as soon as my head hit the pillow but something else was happening instead. It was like the secrets of this so-called Outback were creeping in through the tent flap and seeping into my soul and I found myself wide awake with wonder. I lay still for awhile, willing sleep to come but it wouldn’t. The sleeping bag wasn’t comforting me at all so I finally got dressed and crept out of the tent to see what I could see.
I sat on a stone at the edge of the camp to watch a quarter moon climb through more stars than I had ever imagined. I wished my friends in Sydney—Claudia and Suzanne, and even Dalby—could be watching it with me. I’d bet that they didn’t even know a sky could look like this! In a sudden rush of homesickness, I hurried back to the tent and retrieved my Blackberry from my boot. I needed to SMS an SOS to somebody—anybody! Returning to my rock, I flipped it open, turned it on and…waited for a signal that never came. I watched the words searching for network flit back and forth across the screen for five minutes at least before I gave up and snapped it shut. Outback Australia! I might as well have been on Mars. I tried to find the red planet in the black sky.
The night lay still against my skin, caressing me with an unfamiliar peace. All thoughts of old friends and new enemies soon left my mind. I heard a curlew call, then another and another but I didn’t know what was making those haunting sounds and wondered if I should be frightened. As I sat quietly I heard a door close behind me and turned to see Warren leaving the men’s shower block. He had not seen me.
He walked slowly, looking at the sky, wearing only a red sarong tied around his waist and his black skin sparkled under the amenities’ spotlight. His damp hair curled loosely around his ears and neck, the pale moonlight painted his muscular chest in dark relief and his legs were lithe and supple, the muscles rippling as he walked. He was carrying a towel and a shaving kit and passed close by my stone. I made no sound, didn’t even breathe, but he paused, as if suddenly aware of my presence. He turned slowly to face me.
“Couldn’t sleep,” I said. “What’s making that noise?”
“Curlews,” he answered lightly, gesturing beyond the lights of the campground. “The old people say it’s lost souls calling to each other.”
“That’s what it sounds like. Are they dangerous?”
“Of course not, they’re just birds.”
“An emu’s just a bird but I wouldn’t want to get up close and personal with one.” I smiled. It was nice talking to him without rules and kids surrounding us. “Do you take these trips often?”
“It’ll be another long day tomorrow.” He frowned now and spoke gruffly. “You should get back to your tent, get some sleep.”
His rudeness seemed uncalled for and I felt my anger rising again, spoiling the night. Then I became aware of another rising. He was standing very close and his scarcely clothed body was inches from my face—which happened to be level with his groin. His sarong began to dance and gape and I couldn’t take my eyes away, I was mesmerized. He crossed his arms, strategically using the towel and shaving kit to hide his interest, then turned away, frowning harder than ever.
“Go to bed,” he barked and left.
“So, he’s human after all.” I grinned and returned to my tent. With Warren, not curlews, on my mind, I curled into my sleeping bag, hand between my legs, fingers wriggling. It was funny how I hadn’t wanted to knee that copper in the groin. He was still a bastard, though.
I thought of the bastard’s red sarong, how it had danced. When I imagined the one-eyed puppet beneath that was pulling the strings I climaxed with a sudden spurt. I gasped my surprise and Mary rolled over. I lay absolutely still and held my breath until her snoring resumed. Wouldn’t do to wake her up at a time like this.
Just before falling asleep I remembered Dalby, the guy I was actually engaged to. I reassured him in my mind that I wasn’t being technically unfaithful and also reminded him that he was partially responsible for me being so damned horny.