PAPERBACK BOOKS
OUTBACK SKY

outback sky

Tru has taken to outback life as if she was born to it. For a while her life on Red Cliffs, the remote cattle station in Australia's far north, is perfect.  

Then Dan Grey the new helicopter pilot arrives and shatters her calm existence. Driven and ambitious, Dan is everything Tru distrusts in a man.  

But Tru discovers there is much more to Dan Grey than first meets the eye.  

In fact she is about to discover they have more in common than she could ever have imagined possible. 

In Store Price: $23.95 
Online Price:   $22.95

ISBN: 978-1-921731-22-8   
Format: Paperback
Number of pages:167
Genre: Fiction

 
 

Author: Heather Cole
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2010
Language: English

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Author Biography: 

Heather Cole grew up on a sheep farm in country Victoria. In her early twenties, after a few years in the city, she left for the Northern Territory to work on a remote cattle station. There she met her cattleman husband and together they spent the next ten years living and working on the vast cattle stations of the Top End. 

One of these properties was to provide the setting and the inspiration for Outback Sky. Heather first began writing during this time in the ‘Territory’ but put her writing aside when, as a mature-aged student, she began university studies in psychology.  

Since establishing a career in this field in rural and remote Queensland, Heather’s interest in the stories of the outback and her passion for writing has been reignited.

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Chapter One 

 

‘THAT mustering pilot’s arriving tomorrow. Has Dad told you he’s planning to base himself here for the mustering season?’ John asked as he reached for a saddle and hoisted it up onto his horse’s back.

‘He has. I hope he knows what he’s letting himself in for.’ Tru had a feeling a man like Dan Grey would cause trouble.

‘We spend a fortune on helicopter mustering each year,’ John continued, studying the expression of concern on her face. With a pilot based here we’ll save money.’ A teasing light appeared in his bright blue eyes. ‘I do have one concern, though.’

‘And what might that be?’ she asked absently, knowing John rarely worried about anything.

‘I’ve put in all the ground work and someone like him will come along, take one look at you, and wind up with all the benefits.’

Tru had no idea what he was talking about.

John smiled. Tru had no idea! If she was asked to describe her looks, he was almost sure she would use the word ‘ordinary’. In her opinion her eyes were grey, her hair was brown, and that was that. But that was only half the picture. Her eyes, grey at first glance, flashed dazzling blue sparks in the right light, and to call that ash-brown mane of hair, brown, would be a masterpiece in understatement. As far as John was concerned, she was gorgeous. But then, he was biased.

After saddling her horse Tru stood back to face him curiously.

‘What’s this ground work you’ve put in, anyway?’

‘Remember when you came out here? You were so down on men.’ He reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. ‘You’ve softened your attitude, haven’t you? And I think I can claim some of the credit.’

‘I suppose you can, but I still think I’m better off on my own. I have absolutely no luck when it comes to men.’

‘You’ve been moving in the wrong circles. What you need is a good, honest, country bloke.’ He smiled, hoping she would smile back at him and reveal the deep dimples in her cheeks which he found so endearing. She might be like one of the family, but boy she was cute.

‘I’ll keep that advice in mind, John,’ she said, smiling at last. ‘From now on, I’m sticking to good old country blokes.’

 

Later, from their vantage point at the edge of the rocky escarpment from which Red Cliffs took its name, Tru looked out across the vast valley that lay below and invited the timeless scene to work its soothing magic on her once again. She drew in a long, deep breath and savoured the evocative, earthy smell of dust, black wattle and dry, sun-bleached grass. As she raised her head slightly to feel the warmth of the late afternoon sun on her skin a warm breeze swirled up around her, gently caressing her face and teasing the wispy tendrils of hair that had found their way out from under her hat.

Noticing John had moved on, she urged her horse forward, a little too abruptly, startling the responsive mare into a sidelong jog. As she reached his side she glanced across at the familiar profile, smiled to herself, and relaxed her seat in the saddle. John had that effect on her. He was so calm it was infectious. She still had a lot to learn from him.

Her gaze wandered back out across the valley to the distant ranges which seemed to float like a purple haze beneath an endless blue sky. It was strange that she could feel so at home in this remote place, so far removed from the world she had grown up in. Yet she did feel at home. She had never felt more at home.

 

§

 

Next morning Tru threw herself into the task of calculating the wages of the large staff employed on the station. There were stockmen, a boreman, a mechanic, a cook and cleaner, as well as general station hands, so it took all her concentration. As station bookkeeper, paydays were always her busiest, so it wasn’t until mid-morning, when the previously silent skies became filled with the clamorous sounds of a helicopter that she was reminded of Dan Grey, and his expected arrival.

From her desk in the office she could see straight out through the louvered windows to the gleaming black and silver machine setting down on a clear, grassed area just beyond the compound of station buildings. The helicopter stood for several minutes with the engine blaring noisily before the power was cut, the rotors whirred slowly to a stand-still, and silence returned. It was an unnatural silence. The constant bird-song, which Tru was usually only half conscious of, was now conspicuously absent.

A tall, dark-haired man swung lithely down from the cockpit and strode purposefully towards the homestead. He moved as if every second counted, and he was not in the habit of wasting time. Even from a distance Tru could tell that Dan Grey was different from any man she had met before. She had seen countless men hurrying to work, or to important business meetings before, but they looked nothing like this man. And it had nothing to do with the fact that he was dressed like a stockman.

While he was dressed like a typical Northern Territory ‘ringer’ in his worn jeans, blue cotton shirt, and leather boots, and he moved as if he would be as comfortable on a horse as he would be behind the controls of his helicopter, Tru had a feeling that this was only half the picture. To have achieved what she heard he had, he was obviously an astute business man.

Suddenly he changed direction and headed straight for her office. Unprepared for a face-to-face meeting with this imposing stranger Tru’s nerves sprung to life and her heart raced in anticipation, but she willed her face and posture into what she hoped was an appearance of indifference. She leaned back in her chair, and waited. There were heavy footsteps on the veranda, then a brisk knock on the already open door. As slowly as she could, she swung around in her chair to face the man looming large in the doorway.

Tru’s heart seemed to do a somersault. Her carefully feigned indifference evaporated into the clear morning air. It would be impossible to face this man with  anything resembling indifference. He was extremely tall, with wide shoulders, hard, narrow hips, and long, leanly muscled legs, yet it was more than an impressive build that held Tru transfixed. What he had, she could not have put into words, it was more an aura. Whatever it was, she found it disturbing. And unexpectedly exciting.

‘Hello. You must be Dan Grey.’ She was amazed how normal her voice sounded.

‘My name’s Tru Chandler. I’ll take you over to see Doug. He’s expecting you.’

As she spoke she was overcome with an uncharacteristic feeling of shyness, and try as she might, she could not look directly at him. She was vaguely aware of brown, sun weathered skin, and strong, angular features, but it was not until her nervous gaze swept across a stark scar on his face that she found some focus. It was hard not to focus on the stark scar that slashed dramatically through one dark eyebrow, divided it in two, then ran up and out across his forehead to finally disappear into the jet-black thickness of the hair at his temple. After the initial distraction of the scar, Tru’s gaze travelled to his eyes and she was hit with another jolt. The breath strangled in her throat as she found herself staring into eyes she had stared into before. The man studied her for a long, paralysing moment. ‘Hello Tru.’ He also seemed thrown off guard, but his eyes continued to hold hers, like he was waiting for a further response from her. Tru could not speak. She was dumbstruck. Her astonished gaze remained helplessly fixed on his familiar green eyes as he entered the small room.

The clatter of footsteps along the veranda shattered the charged silence. Doug Rankin, the owner and manager of Red Cliffs, stepped through the door, a large hand extended in greeting. ‘Dan! How ya doing?’

Dan Grey shook the older man’s hand vigorously. ‘I’m fine thanks, Doug. Good to see you again.’

‘Let’s go over to the house for a cuppa,’ Doug suggested as he made for the door, then, as an afterthought asked, ‘Has Tru introduced herself?’

‘Oh yes, we’re acquainted,’ the newcomer replied pointedly, directing her a penetrating look before turning to follow Doug.

A surreal feeling crept over Tru as she sat staring blankly at the empty doorway.

Then a strangely familiar nervous rush swept through her, sending her heart racing out of control. Was her mind playing tricks on her, or was that really him?

Tru had to force herself to concentrate on finishing the wages. She made slow work of the task, making error after error as her mind reeled in shock and confusion.

At midday she took the pay slips over to the staff dining room, where she distributed them before attempting to have some lunch. She managed to put some food on her plate, but she ate very little of the meal. Her mind was far away as she absently pushed the food around on her plate. She stared out the open windows to the helicopter sitting silently on the grassed area beyond the station buildings, as if the machine might give her some information, information she desperately needed if she was going to cope with being anywhere near its owner. 

When she stepped back into her office she was once again startled by the unsettling presence of Dan Grey, who was now casually leaning against a filing cabinet.

Doug Rankin was sprawled on an office chair, with one booted foot up on a desk. Seeing Tru, he quickly removed it, grinning sheepishly. 

‘Good afternoon, gentlemen,’ she addressed them both, trying desperately to control her nerves. ‘Can I help you?’

‘You can, love. I thought I might leave Dan here with you for a while. There’ll be a few things you need to know about his operations, now that he’s based here.’

Tru felt a sudden rush of panic, but managed to maintain her composure. ‘Fine, Doug. I’ve organised the pays, so I’m up to date.’ She turned to the younger man uncertainly, ‘What do I need to know?’

Doug excused himself. ‘I need to have a word with the men before they head out to the yards. I’ll leave you both to it.’

Tru nodded, then returned her attention to Dan Grey, who seemed to be regarding her speculatively. ‘So, what do I need to know?’ she asked him again, self-consciously.

 

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