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SIGNED PRINT - Australian Brides | Book 1 - Farmer Needs A Wife

SIGNED PRINT - Australian Brides | Book 1 - Farmer Needs A Wife

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Main Tropes

  • Second chance romance
  • Small town
  • Outback romance

Billie Holden thought she had the perfect life, until she caught her boyfriend with another woman. Betrayed and hurting, she leaves Sydney for a new life in the tropical north. To help soothe her broken heart, she takes the inland route so she can see the outback. She’s never been there before and just as luck would have it, she breaks down smack in the middle of the smallest town she’s ever seen.
Jeff Houston didn’t want to join the wife hunting competition but he owed Beth big time, and can’t refuse her request to bolster the numbers. His luck changes when he meets Billie, the perfect candidate for a wife. Pity he isn’t looking for one, and the last thing she wants is to get into a relationship again. She only needs his mechanical skills.
They get on better than either of them imagined and Jeff decides he really wants to get to know her more. But keeping Billie in Casey Plains with lies wasn’t the best choice he could have made, and she finds out before he can come clean.

Once again, she’s on the run with a broken heart.
Is there anything this country man can do to tempt her to try again?


Intro into chapter one

Billie Holden pushed open the door to the tiny outback pub, frustration creeping up her spine making her antsy and ready to battle anyone who got in her way. At least the warmth from inside the entry welcomed her, going a small way toward soothing her frazzled nerves. Worst idea in history to drive from Sydney to
Cairns. So much easier to fly but stubborn as she was, an adult capable of making up her own mind, she ignored her mother’s suggestions like she always
did and decided the three-day drive was exactly what she needed. If nothing else, it would give her the space she needed from her mother and her well meaning but intensely annoying suggestions on how to fix things. There was no fixing this one. Not a hope in hell.

Broken engagement, who cares? She could move on and start a new life without him. Since when did her future depend on a man anyway? She was an independent woman
with a career she loved. She didn’t need anyone. Least of all, him. The man she thought she’d found her forever with, the man who made her feel complete. The man with whom she’d already chosen her children’s names with.

The man who cheated with someone higher up the food chain than her.

The shallow prick!

She mentally tossed her hair and felt the old resolve kick back in.

Nobody to share that fabulous bottle of red with, no worries. She didn’t mind drinking alone.

All the ice cream for herself, bonus. What was an extra kilo anyway? She didn’t need to be a size ten to score a good front page newspaper story.

Crying alone over a soppy movie, meh! They were over-rated. Time to get more serious with her downtime.

“Sign here, love.” The grey-haired woman, wearing a red and white gingham apron, pushed up her glasses and turned from the book she was hovering over, toward
Billie. She let her gaze travel up and down Billie as if she were being judged for a horse auction.

“I’m looking for someone. Jeff Houston. I was told he was in here.” She smiled warmly, despite the clenched teeth she wanted to snap. Mother always said being
friendly got you what you wanted, no matter how much she’d rather cry in despair.

“Gotta sign the book, love. Only way you’re going to get anywhere near that hunk of a man.” The old lady wiggled her nose and gave Billie a sly glance before shoving her glasses higher up her nose.

Billie sighed and scratched her forehead, willing away the rising tension headache.
Just her luck to break down in a tiny town west of bumfuck and two days away from rescue-me-please crossroads. “I’m just looking for the mechanic. Someone told me he was here. If you’d be kind enough to point him out, I can get what I
came for and be on my merry way.” She gave another smile to take the sting out of her words.

The lady nodded and handed Billie the pen. “And I told you, sign here and I’ll point him out to you.” She gave Billie a satisfied smile that named her the winner in this conversation and shrugged. “Gotta do this by the rules, lovely,
or things will go crazy in there.” She nodded her head through the double glass doors where people mingled, and the sound of raucous laughter did little to encourage Billie.

Who signed guest books these days anyway? Must be some quaint little town tradition. Billie took the pen with a frozen smile and signed her name where the old woman pointed. “There. Happy?” She even drew a tiny heart over the ‘i’ in her first name. Goodness knows why. Hers was broken.

“That wasn’t so hard, was it? Can’t have people coming into town and messing up our well-organized party now, can we?” She took the pen back and smoothed down her
gingham apron before opening the door and pressing a hand on Billie’s back, giving her a shove and shouting a greeting to the bar. “One for Jeff.”

Billie winced at the loud voice so close to her ears.

The bar fell silent and everyone turned to stare at her. All nine, ten, eleven, twelve, no… thirteen of them.

“Welcome to Casey Plains.” A stocky woman with shocking electric blue hair came from
behind the bar and held out her hand. “I’m Elizabeth Ryan, the pub owner, but you can call me Beth.” She grinned and shook Billie’s hand vigorously. “I’m the Mayor of this little patch of paradise, and organizer of the contest.”

“Billie Holden. I’m looking for Jeff. Someone told me I could find him in here.” She smiled at the men leaning on the bar, hoping one of them was who she was
searching for. The plan was to get back on the road and to her destination. She was keen to start her new life and be happy once more.

“Jeff! You got a contender here,” Beth yelled over her shoulder and Billie cringed.
What was with the loud voices in this place? The mayor turned back and grinned.
“Beer pump blew just on opening time. Can’t have a contest without the beer flowing, can we?”

“Lovely. I wonder if I could have a quick word with Jeff? My car broke down and I…

“Get in line,” a smokey female voice came from the small, darkened alcove by the double entry doors. A pair of dusty boots hung over the edge of the bench seat,
and a curl of smoke whispered its way over to Billie. She screwed up her nose and fanned her face with her hand as she turned away.

“Take that filthy habit outside, Pearl. You’ve been told before. Smoking is banned in pubs.” Beth stood with her feet apart, hands on hips. “If you don’t abide by the rules, I’m tearing up your application.”

A curse preceded the body that slid out of the booth and stood up. If it wasn’t for the voice, Billie wouldn’t have known the gender. Dressed in faded, dusty denim jeans, a button up shirt with a scuffed leather vest over, the woman looked every inch a hardworking cowboy. Even the battered hat on her head
didn’t give any clue to what she really looked like. She tilted her head and pushed the brim back, and stared at Billie with piercing sky-blue eyes.

“I was here first, sister.” She pinched the tip of the hand rolled cigarette between finger and thumb, dropped it on the wooden floor, then stomped on it before putting the remains of her cigarette in her pocket.

Beth snorted. “Don’t mean you get to go home with him, Pearl. You should know better than that by now. Up to Jeff after the first date and that’s here, tonight. Don’t go getting ahead of yourself. Never turns out good for any of us.”

Billie shook her head. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m after Jeff, the mechanic.”

Beth put a hand on her arm. “Don’t fuss yourself, girl. You’ll get your chance. Now why don’t you buy yourself a drink and wait like the rest of them. The boys will all be out soon, then we can start proceedings.”

“Proceedings. For what? I need a mechanic. My car broke down.”

Beth nodded. “So that’s why you want Jeff. Good choice. Out of all the men available, I’d probably go with him too. After last year, I was kinda tempted, I have to admit.” She winked and leaned in as if they were best friends already. “But I’m too old for him. Poor boy needs all the help he can get but my guess is he ain’t looking for a mother figure, you know what I mean?” She
nudged Billie in the side with her elbow.

Billie clenched her fists. One simple request. A mechanic to look at her broken down car and tell her if he could fix it or not. “No, I do not know what you mean. My car broke down just the other side of town. I have to get it fixed so I can head off, and I need to figure out if that’s possible. Now, please, if you
don’t mind.”

“Get the lady a white wine, Russell.” Beth threw instructions to the guy behind the bar. “Looks like a white wine kinda person to me.” She grabbed Billie by the arm and guided her over to an empty table down from the alcove Pearl guarded. A few of the tables were already occupied, and one pretty little lady gave Billie a halfhearted wave before dropping her hand to reach for her almost empty wine
glass and gulping down its contents.

“Just you sit yourself down there and wait. Jeff will be out soon.” She patted Billie on the hand like an upset child and walked away.

Russell hurried over with a glass of wine and put it down in front of her. “Here you go, love. Fix your tab up on the way out.”

Billie gave him a tight smile. “Thank you.” She took a sip and waited.

A few more women walked in, grabbed drinks, found a table and waited.

Half an agonizing hour later, Beth came back out from behind the bar, and clapped her hands for attention. “Ladies and gentlemen, and I say that word loosely. Welcome to the annual Casey Plains Farmer Needs A Wife Competition.”

The ladies either side of her giggled and clapped their hands as dread washed over Billie. No freaking way!

“You all know the rules. No man handling, no hair pulling, no slapping each other,
no eye gouging and no wrestling. You’re all women, act like it and play nice. This contest will be carried out calmly and politely. Stay at your table. The men will come to you and do a circuit. Each speed date will last ten minutes. At the end of the dating round, they will write up their scores, as will you, and we all go onto the next section. Is that clear?”

Billie stood up. “I think you have it wrong. I’m not here for your competition. I just need a mechanic.”

Pearl got to her feet and took off her hat, showing a full head of wild red hair. “Me too, sweetheart. Fight you for him.” She rolled up her sleeves showing off tanned, muscled arms.

Billie took a step back. “What? No, I’m not getting into a fight with anyone. I just need a mechanic.” How had things escalated so fast? Couldn’t she do anything right?

Beth held out her hands. “Sit down, Billie. You signed in at the door. Mavis would’ve told you how this works. You too, Pearl. You should know the rules by now. Six years of trying and still you can’t behave? Don’t make me disqualify you, girl.”

The fight went out of Billie and she sat down, ignoring the twittering giggles coming from the other tables.

“Right now. Best behavior, ladies. I’ll bring out the men and we can begin.”

How the heck was she going to get through this? She didn’t want a date. She only wanted someone to fix her damned car. Why oh why did she decide to take the inland road to her destination? The coast road was more scenic, had more life
and she knew it well.

That was the reason. Billie didn’t want the same old thing. Not after breaking up with Tom. She wanted something new, and that’s why she was heading to Cairns via the inland route to see places she hadn’t seen before. Places he was too cityfied to visit. Dusty, remote little towns that screamed outback. To experience what life was like in the desert was too good a chance to turn down,
even if it was only for the short time while she drove through to somewhere else. Places off the beaten track that Tom refused to step foot in unless they
had three cafés, a boutique brewery, and a list of top-rated restaurants with a
five-star hotel to break the journey if he got tired.

“Excuse me, ma’am.”

She glanced up.

Her visitor held out his hand and smiled. “Name’s Jeff. It’s nice to meet you. Mind if I sit down?”

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