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Authors: Rachael Johns

Outback Dreams

BOOK: Outback Dreams
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Outback
DREAMS
RACHAEL JOHNS

Dear Reader

The idea for
Outback Dreams
started forming the year my middle son started full-time school. He wound up in the Principal's office THREE times in his first term and this didn't bother him one bit. Eventually, due to his behaviour in class and at home, a psychologist was called in and he was tested for a number of things, including autism.

During the time we were speaking with the psychologist, I did a lot of reading around autism and Asperger's syndrome. Although my son was eventually cleared of being on the autism spectrum, I knew that if he had been diagnosed, it wouldn't have affected just him but us as parents and also his brothers.

People with autism are often highly intelligent people who struggle to fit in with certain ideals of the world. I decided I wanted to explore this issue in a book, so I gave my gorgeous hero Daniel Montgomery an autistic brother, who had influenced his life in many ways.

In essence this book is still a romance, with lots of other threads including two of my favourite romance hooks—I won't say what they are so as not to give the plot away.

Oh and by the way, this book is the first in at least three linked books about the people of Bunyip Bay. It's the first time I've ever embarked on a series, and although each book will be a stand-alone there are a few storylines running through the books, and I hope you'll forgive me for leaving those unfinished for now. I promise all will be revealed in
Outback Blaze
and
Outback Ghost.

I hope you enjoy this book and, as usual, would love to hear from readers either on Facebook or Twitter or through my website at www.rachaeljohns.com

Happy Reading.

x

Rachael

Acknowledgements

It's hard to believe I now have five published books to my name— the excitement of seeing a new cover and spotting my books on the shop shelves will never get old—and it makes the sometimes hard work of writing a novel all worthwhile. Without readers, this dream would not be possible, so I want to thank each and every one of you who has bought and enjoyed one of my books. Thank you for the emails and messages on my Facebook page; you cannot imagine how these small notes make my day!

This dream would also not be possible without the support of my fabulous publisher Harlequin Australia and to the awesome team there—Haylee, Lilia, Cristina, Michelle and all the other wonderful people who work together to bring my books to life. Thank you all!

Thanks also to my brilliant editor Lachlan Jobbins, who once again read my rough draft and immediately knew what I was trying to achieve.

A big thank you to Helen Breitweiser from the Cornerstone Agency who read my Aussie book
(Jilted)
on a trip home from Down Under and cried so much the flight attendant asked her if she was okay. Thanks for believing in me and my writing and for taking us both on.

Once again my writing support team didn't fail me—thanks to Bec Sampson, Cathryn Hein, Janette Radevski, Joanne Dannon, Melissa Smith, Fiona Palmer, Fiona Lowe and the Sassy Sisters for believing in me when I didn't. Also to our friend and employee Lyn Beverly who is a constant champion for my writing and to Holly Paine who read the first half of this book and told me it was even better than
Jilted
and
Man Drought
. I'm blessed with amazing friends.

A special thanks to Sue Hillier, a reader and Facebook friend, who read
Outback Dreams
and paid particular attention to the autistic angle. Sue has personal experience with autism, and I thank her for ensuring I wrote this book with the empathy I desired.

And finally to my family—without their support, none of this would be possible.

For Mum
Many people think they have the best mother in the world,
but I
know.

Contents

Acknowledgements

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Epilogue

Prologue

‘I
hate
you both and I'm not coming!'

Ten-year old Daniel Montgomery ran from the only house he'd ever called home, slamming the door behind him. He couldn't remember the last time he'd slammed a door—his little brother couldn't handle loud, sudden noises—but the rage inside him right now warranted it.

How could his parents do this to him? How could they even contemplate selling the farm and moving to the city? Of all the ridiculous places. What did the city have to offer except stupidly tall buildings and more shops than anyone would ever need in their life?

He tried to tell himself it wasn't his brother's fault—Will would be quite happy spending the rest of his life on the farm catching spiders and aligning furniture around the house—but of course it
was
Will's fault: his parents wanted more for him. Yet no one asked Monty. No one cared what he thought or what happened to him.

He ran to find the only person he knew would understand. He ran next door to Forrester's Rock where Faith lived. But next door in the country wasn't a mere leap over the fence like it would be in the city—he hated the thought of living so close to other people—it was a good few kilometres over paddocks and hills. He ran as the crow flies—that's what adults said, didn't they?—and he didn't see another soul until Faith's house appeared and he saw her swinging off the rope in the old gum tree. He'd miss that rope. On his few visits to Perth, he hadn't seen any ropes hanging from backyard trees. All the city kids had those bright-coloured plastic swing sets that you couldn't even make go high if you swung your legs as hard as ever.

Grimacing at that thought, Monty pushed his burning legs harder. He raced across the last bit of the paddock, leapt the wire fence and shouted, ‘Faith!'

She glanced his way, smiled, let go of the rope and sailed through the air to meet him. When she got close, her face fell. ‘What's the matter?' she asked.

He stopped, his breath ragged as he ran a hand over his sweaty face. He knew it would be as bright as a tomato. ‘We're moving,' he panted, delivering the blow in two devastating words.

‘What?' Faith screwed up her face as if she couldn't comprehend what he was saying.

He took another deep breath. ‘Mum and Dad have sold the farm. We're moving to Perth. Next week.'

‘What?' Faith said again. He wondered if it was suddenly the only word in her vocabulary. She sank down onto the lawn— about the only green grass in the region—and he sat down beside her. It was like a bad dream.

‘They didn't tell me until now because they didn't want to worry me.' Monty scoffed and thumped his fist against the ground. ‘That's what they said, anyway. Truth is, they didn't tell me because they don't give a damn what I think.' He'd never used such harsh language before and it made him feel grown-up, even while he was sulking.

‘Why?' Faith asked, her voice quiet, as if she might be about to cry. Faith never cried—not like the girls at school who burst into tears at the tiniest thing, like if a mouse scuttled across the classroom floor. Her name and long brown hair in a messy ponytail were the only things girly about Faith. People called her a tomboy, but Monty didn't care. She was his best mate. Leaving her behind would be as horrid as leaving the farm.

‘Because of Will. Mum's tired of driving back and forth to Perth for all his therapy. And the high school up here might not be equipped for him. They said they're thinking ahead.' But as far as Monty was concerned, they weren't thinking at all. How could selling the farm be a good thing? It had been in the family for generations.

‘Oh. Well that royally sucks.'

‘You can say that again. What am I gonna do in the city?'

‘Maybe you could join a chess club or the Boy Scouts.' Faith tossed a grin his way, obviously trying to make him feel better.

He scowled and thumped her in the side. They both sighed and stared out across the garden to the paddocks of Forrester's Rock. Big cylinder hay bales littered the ground. There were identical ones back at his place. Hay baling was one of his favourite parts of farming. Only a week ago he'd been working alongside his dad, who hadn't mentioned even once that this would be his last chance to do it. Grown-ups were so unfair.

‘I was always gonna be a farmer.' Monty felt tears welling up in the corners of his eyes. He fought them hard, trying to keep hold of his anger.

‘You still will be,' Faith said with determination. ‘The best.'

‘But what good's a farmer without a farm?'

‘Hmm…' Faith mused for a few moments and then said, ‘Maybe you could marry me and live here.'

Monty snorted.

‘You're right. It's ridiculous.'

Faith laughed. She didn't even know if she wanted to get married anyway. As far as she could see, the only reason to get married was to have babies, and she wasn't very sure about them either. She'd never liked playing with dolls, sitting around toying with tea sets drove her berserk, and you didn't want to get her started on make-up. Like Monty, she wanted to be a farmer— outside from dawn to dusk, ploughing the dirt, shearing, crutching, mustering stock. That's why she played with the boys at school and steered clear of the girls.

‘Maybe your parents could adopt me,' Monty said, interrupting her thoughts.

‘Now that would be fabulous.' He already stayed with them often enough when his mum and Will went to Perth. She grinned at the idea as she wiped her eyes, not wanting to cry in front of Monty. Not wanting to cry full stop. Only sissies cried. But how was she ever going to get through each day without him? Who would catch frogs with her by the dam? Who would climb trees and do silly dares with her?

Ryan never wanted to play the same games. He was only three years older, but thought himself a man already. She couldn't even interest him when mud pies and catapults were on the table.

‘I'm gonna be bored out of my brains without you,' she said, staring glumly at the ground.

Monty grabbed her hand and squeezed hard. ‘You won't forget me though, will ya?'

‘Never. We'll be friends forever.' Although she squeezed back, Faith didn't look at Monty. If she did, she'd definitely cry.

Chapter One

What in God's name am I doing here?

Faith Forrester didn't get her underarms or bikini line waxed, she didn't drink skim milk when there was perfectly good full cream stuff available from the cow, and she didn't run marathons, so why on earth had she agreed to come to a school reunion? She'd hated boarding school and hadn't stayed in touch with any of the girls in her year.

Taking a sip of expensive champagne, she glanced around the room—the one difference between here and Hell being that here they served good grog—and imagined Monty laughing as she described it. Overlooking the Swan River in all its sparkling nighttime glory, the décor and atmosphere at the yacht club were about as far from The Palace in Bunyip Bay as you could get. But it wasn't just her surroundings that were top of the wazza; everything from the background music to the guests' outfits screamed glamour and class. She should have listened to him when he told her not to bother coming, that nothing and no one from school would have changed.

BOOK: Outback Dreams
8.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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