Dani Donahue is new to town. She’s a city girl there for a week to clear out the house she inherited. Her arrival has caused an uproar, residents debating whether she will keep the house or sell to an outsider, which could mean the end of the small town.
Brett Marshall is a gruff pub owner who keeps to himself and stays out of people’s business. Until Dani shatters his quiet existence. He’s a country boy twice her age and hides a heart of gold.
Dani and Brett may be from different worlds but they have more in common than they’d first thought. With an offer of half a mil it seems a done deal.
Unless there was something to keep her in Woollybah Creek…
Parking beside the house, Dani released Sky from her seat and set her down. Brett’s headlights had been a comforting presence as he followed her and now the man unfolded from the cab.
She unlocked then pushed open the front door.
“Go brush your teeth. I’ll be in in a moment.”
Sky ran inside, singing the pop song they’d heard on the radio on the drive home.
She turned, surprised to see Brett leaning against his vehicle. She hadn’t expected him to walk her to the door like they were on a date, neither did she expect him to keep a cool distance.
He peeled himself off when she approached.
Somewhere in the distance a windmill screeched as it rotated.
“Thanks again. I don’t mean to be any trouble.”
“You’re not. I apologize for Hardy.”
“Don’t apologize. You’re not in control of his actions.”
“I hope he didn’t turn you off the town. We’re all usually quite friendly and safe.”
The flat expression on his face belied the “friendly” aspect of his comment. As she drew his masculine scent into her lungs, she questioned “safe” also. Not that she feared for her safety, only that Tall, Dark, and Handsome could probably mess with her heart without even trying.
“Stupid question to ask since you’re grieving, but how are you doing?”
Just like that, his words opened the fountain of emotions she’d been holding back. Her vision blurred and her throat worked.
“It was just so sudden. She wasn’t even sick. She didn’t have any health problems.” She took a shaky breath. “I miss her so much.”
A tear leaked out. She expected him to freak out at the crying chick. Instead, he slowly drew her into his chest, holding her loosely so she could pull away if she wanted. She didn’t. Dani burrowed into him. His hands tightened around her and she took the comfort he provided.
“I’d like to say over time it will get better but that would be a lie. The pain may fade, you might move on with your life, but out of the blue a memory will be triggered and catapult you right back here.”
He sounded as if he spoke from experience. She wouldn’t pry into his life and ask. It was none of her business. She simply held him tighter as if she could heal the broken pieces she sensed rattled inside him.
Brett Marshall was such an enigma. After the way he’d crushed the man’s hand who’d been hitting on her, she hadn’t considered he might have a softer side. Feeling as though she’d taken too much of his time already, she stepped back. His hands dropped to his sides.
Her shoulders slumped. “I think I’m still a bit numb. Probably for the best. I figured I was as tough as they come, but nothing has prepared me for having to clear out her home. I have no clue what to keep or donate. I don’t know what she treasured in life. What if I make the wrong choice? I should’ve tried to visit her instead of making her come to me. She always worked around my schedule.”
“She treasured you and her great-granddaughter. Everything else is immaterial.”
He was right. Nanna valued family and love over objects.
Brett shifted his weight in a move she didn’t associate with his personality. Was he uncomfortable?
“If you’d like, I can come by and help. I can’t guarantee I’d know what not to part with but I can help you make the right decision.”
His offer filled her with joy. It would be nice not to have to do it alone.
“I’ll take you up on that.”
“Done. Will you be all right?”
His concern was touching.
“Sure. I have the best mood booster in the world.”
She glanced toward the house where her daughter brushed her teeth. Toothpaste would be everywhere, without her there to ensure Sky’s electric toothbrush stayed in her mouth.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“Tomorrow,” she agreed. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Sweet dreams.”
“Same to you.”
When he didn’t budge, it dawned on her that he waited for her to head inside. They must breed gentlemen out here.
As soon as the door closed behind her, the growl of an engine started up. Headlights trailed across her far wall when he arced his Ute around and headed down her driveway, the engine fading.
A smile curved her mouth.
Nanna had not been fibbing about the town.