After unceremoniously being dumped by her boyfriend, Cass Kelly has had enough of men and the big city. She needs a change and a challenge. On a drunken whim, she accepts a job working in a small hotel in the outback town of Mundabucka. Men? Who needs .them? Sex? Never, ever again.
Local cowboy Evan Bates is not one to say never and makes it only too obvious why she needs men, sex and him specifically. The redheaded Cass is in his sights and he aims to get her. But lust isn’t the only thing stirring in town. It’s the annual Throcker Thrash where legendary gold is hunted and Cass is caught up in the race for it. Who wants it so badly they’ll kill for it?
Two hours later, standing at the local airport at Mundabucka with a suitcase in one hand and two cackling caged chooks in the other, Cass looked around her. Behind her was a rusted-in-parts, corrugated tin shack that served as arrival and departures for the overly optimistically named Mundabucka International Airport. In front of her was dry, red dirt as far as the eye could see. And the heat? Suffocating. Unlike Cairns it was a dry heat that sucked all the moisture out of a body. Cass felt the sweat dripping down between her breasts and clinging to the short floral sundress she was wearing.
She put both the suitcase and chooks on the ground and re-scraped her hair up into a haphazard bun on top of her head. “Frig, it’s hot.” Cass looked around her. Other than the squinty-eyed airport controller, who introduced himself as Phil, there was no one. She was supposed to be met by someone called Evan. Phil smiled when she told him this.
“Evan’s a creature of whim. He gets the call of the wild and takes off just like that.” He snapped his fingers.
Cass was impressed as not only was Phil missing two front teeth but also three fingers on his left hand and two on his right. He explained this as a ‘run-in with a pissed off wild pig.’
She looked down at the caged chickens. “Okay, so maybe this wasn’t a brilliant idea but it’s not my worst.” They cackled loudly. “Oh, shut up. I know what I’m doing—kinda.” Cass muttered under her breath and looked around her once more. There was loads of nothing for miles. “Where the hell is he?”
“Who?” came a voice from behind her.
Cass spun around in surprise. “Where did you come from?” She asked as she surveyed the tall, lanky man with broad shoulders that most men would kill for. She looked into the bluest eyes she had ever seen and saw only amusement. Men. Amusement. Not happening.
“You’d be the city chick here to work at McNally’s Hotel.”
City chick? “I’m Cass Kelly and undoubtedly you’d be the creature of whim, Phil was telling me about.”
The dark haired man smiled. “That’d be me.” Evan Bates at your service.” He looked down at the caged chooks. “You brought chooks.” That made his smile wider.
Cass picked up the cage. “You’re quick.”
Evan scratched his head. “You know, when Jo and Flo said you were bringing them I thought the old girls had lost their minds.”
“Do you have a problem with chickens?” They were her pets. She couldn’t leave them to fend for themselves when she went bush. They were like family. Sort of.
He shrugged. “Nope. We like chickens here—preferably deep fried.”
“You fry my chickens and I will fry your ass.”
Evan arched one eyebrow. “That could be fun.” His gaze then traveled down her body, lingering on her breasts, before moving down to her thong clad feet and back up to her eyes. “What’re their names?”
“How do you know I named them?” She had but that wasn’t the point. Do I look that obvious?
“You brought them all the way to the middle of nowhere. They have to be important to you.”
The chooks were quiet as they watched him. Cass squared her shoulders. “Mitzi and Bert.”
“Yeah, what of it?”
“Bert is a boy’s name. This chook is a female,” he pointed out as he reached for her bag.
“So?” Cass knew her tone was defensive but she wasn’t in the mood to deal with a smart ass man.
Still smiling at her, he responded, “Nothing. So, one bag only?”
“I travel light.” She had left everything she owned at Lorelle’s place. Not that ‘everything’ was much. It was an old television, a purple cane chair, a sofa bed and an oversized panda she won at the Cairns show when she was twelve and was reluctant to get rid of.
“Most women travel with all sorts of crap.”
“I’m not most women.”
Again, he looked her up and down. “Nope, you’re different all right.”
She wanted to ask what he meant by that but decided against it. She had a feeling the answer would be complicated and right now she needed easy and simple. “How far’s McNally’s?”
“It’s in the middle of town so that’d make it about five kilometers from here.”
“Great. Let’s go.” She desperately wanted a shower. “Where’s your car?”
“Yeah, I rode here.”
“Well, how am I supposed to get to McNally’s?”
“On the back of my horse.”
What the? She hadn’t ridden a horse in her life and wasn’t about to now. “What about my stuff?”
“Phil will drive over later with it.”
Cass placed the chicken cage on the ground. “Fine, I’ll go into town with Phil.”
“No worries. He goes off shift in six hours.”
Her eyes widened at that. “Six hours?”
“Yep, he’s stationed here in case of emergencies.”
Cass looked around at the vast expanse of nothingness. “Like what? Aliens landing?”