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Australian Brides | Book 5 - The Farmer's Inspiration - Print signed by author

Australian Brides | Book 5 - The Farmer's Inspiration - Print signed by author

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Main Tropes

  • Small Outback Town
  • Brides romance
  • Dating Game

Leila Green's mother died when she was only a teenager, and she sought out comfort in the wrong places. She soon found herself addicted to drugs, caught up in a bikie gang with no way to escape.

After trying to harm the one person who was there for her, she spends the next three years in a hospital where she has been undergoing care. Now she is ready to leave.

Pearl and Lance have welcomed her with open arms to Casey Plains, found her a place to stay and encouraged her to follow the passion she inherited from her mother - textile art.

She tries to keep to herself, but a cute, pushy motherless seven-year-old girl has other ideas.

When his daughter Sara finds out there’s someone new in town, she makes a friend. Josh falls for the quiet artist but there is something she's hiding.

When someone from Leila’s past arrives and holds her against her will, torturing her for answers she can’t give, she feels it’s no more than what she deserves.

When Sara comes looking for her and is caught up in the danger, Leila does everything she can to save the child, even offering herself up to whatever her captor wants if she’ll let Sara go.

But both Sara and Leila are stronger than either of them believe.


Synopsis

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 citified 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?”

Her mechanic. Thank goodness. About time she got a break. Yes. “Please do. I’m Billie.” She stared at the hunk of man in front of her. He had a smear of grease on his tanned cheek, and a genuine spark of pleasure in his eyes. Deep, honey brown with flecks of green that seemed to move with the light. He put his hat on the ground beside him and tossed his head, sweeping back the thick black hair that hung over his forehead.

“Nice to meet you, Billie.”

She swallowed and leaned closer. “Look, before we get into this, I have a confession. I’m not looking for a date.”

Intro into chapter one

   

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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