After watching helplessly while her father's flying cargo business withered on the vine of scandal and accusation, Sydney Carstairs developed a burning desire for vengeance. She is determined to find the lost diamonds, rebuild Camaroo, and clear her father's reputation. When Ryan Roglund comes to Australia to enforce her father's edict to sell the business, Sydney is devastated but unwillingly attracted to the bossy freelance photographer. Using all her resources, she fights the determined, arrogant man on every front. With so many strikes against them, can the headstrong couple find love? Or are they destined to remain forever at a crossroads?
Mature subject matter for adults only. Erotic: adult spanking only.
The red dirt runway loomed up before her as Syd deftly brought the twin engine Cessna into the track by visual. The engine spluttered and died just as the landing gear come down and the Ladybird floated on air as she hit the runway and zoomed on up towards the hangar. Then she skillfully applied the brakes and brought the small plane to a smooth halt six feet from the glowering face of fifty five year old Evan Withers.
With an impish smile, Syd flung open the door and nimbly leaped from the body of the plane, ignoring the step, her usually somber eyes alight with mischief.
"Bloody hell, Syd, how many times have I told you to stop cutting it so close?" Growled Evan, running his hand through his salt and pepper hair. His heart was still in his throat and he wished he had some way to get through to the indomitable brat! If she had been his daughter, that route would have been via her backside.
"Stop grousing so much, Evan," grinned Syd, eying the older man. Evan's weathered face bore a year round tan, telltale of his many years in the hot Australian sun and his brown eyes were worried despite his anger. Syd was pretty levelheaded for the most part, but remained stubbornly careless about this and it concerned him deeply. "You're a worry wart, you know that?"
"Evan is right, young man," stressed a deep voice coming around the other side of the plane.
Carter McAllister had seen the foolhardy lad and his green eyes were hostile as he cut under the nose and scowled at Syd, his demeanor arrogant and his stance aggressive. He was a man who was used to taking charge of things and did not suffer fools gladly.
He appraised the boy, the baseball cap worn backwards in a facetious manner; the smooth boyish cut of his face and the worn bib overalls and faded T-shirt. The lad didn't look a day over fifteen with those big topaz eyes that were curiously fringed with dark lashes.
"How old are you anyway?"
Syd flushed, her temper simmering. "Old enough to fly, if its any of your business," she snapped.
"Syd, this is Carter McAllister. His family owns Karamanda."
Evan's voice held a note of admonition and Syd looked closer at the big man who towered a good foot over her. This must be the brother that had left over a family dispute, thought Syd, her mind working quickly. He would be about thirty-five if memory served her correctly.
"Is this the way you usually treat potential customers," responded Carter acidly. He hadn't missed Syd's recognition of Karamanda.
"Not usually, but then potential customers don't normally criticize me," she replied evenly, ramming her hands into her bib pockets. She knew she had to be careful to keep a tight rein on her attitude, or risk exposure of her identity.
However, she took an instant dislike to this man and his attitude of owning the world around him. It was his air of authority and his expectation that all within his circumference would bow to him that made her disdainful. A man with money and power who didn't mind letting others know he had it, she thought scornfully.
Obviously he mistook her for a boy, but that was just the way she and Evan wanted it, for the moment anyway.
"I was told that Camaroo Services had a good reputation for prompt, swift delivery," ground out Carter. "But it would seem that safety is not their first priority if they hire a pilot with your youth and obvious inexperience. No real pilot would take such a foolish risk!" He stepped closer to Syd, his stance contemptuous as if he dared her to dispute him.
Syd willed her face to remain impassive and she refused to even back up or show any hint of weakness or the desire to run, as she returned stare for stare.
"I want to speak with the manager." Carter's green gaze finally swung to Evan. "Is that YOU, Evan?" he spoke, his voice just the right touch of mocking scorn that left Syd flushing at the implication that it could never be her.
"Yes, I'm the manager," replied Evan, sending Syd a warning look.
Syd leaned against the plane then, her attitude calm and nonchalant, but inside she was fuming. Her knees were trembling and she had purposely moved away from Carter. She needed a little breathing space as she fought to maintain her placid demeanor.
She would let Evan handle Carter McAllister before she said something that would give her away and blow her cover. But she didn't have to like it, she decided, resisting the childish urge to stick her tongue out at him. She hated that Evan was always assumed to be the owner and manager of Camaroo, when if fact, it belonged to her.
"The pilot my father had on retainer is retiring and he recommended Camaroo," Carter said to Evan. "Since I've just returned to Karamanda after a ten year absence, I took his recommendations and came here." The two men began walking towards the office, inside the hanger. "But I hope you've got another pilot besides that brash young fool."
Syd never heard Evan's reply, but she was pretty sure he would take the job himself. She gave in to the childish whim and stuck her tongue out at Carter's back and felt better.
With a deep sigh, she walked to the jeep parked next to the building and slid her slim body into the driver's seat. Only the fact that they needed the business had kept her tongue in check.
She stared out at the blazing colors that streaked along the rim of the sky. The sun was beginning to set and orange and red hues painted the drifting clouds a lighter version of their vivid shades. She never tired of the beauty of the heavens and was at peace when she was in the little plane, high above the ground belting out her music or softly crooning a love song.
Syd loved to fly. In fact, it was a toss up as to which she loved more, flying or singing. Both were a passion for her and she pursued both with a vengeance. She would often sing into the radio, pretending it was a microphone and listen to Evan grouse about the airwaves.
When she and Evan had Camaroo back on its feet, she would be free to study more diligently with her music. But for now, she had to settle for correspondence courses from the Uni and singing at The Gilded Lily to pay for those courses and her expenses. Maybe God would be merciful and give them a break with Carter McAllister. Chances were though, as soon as he heard about the scandal, he would be gone too. People around these parts sure had long memories.
Why anyone would think that her gentle father had had anything to do with smuggling she could not imagine. Yet one by one, their customers had dropped off until Camaroo had become a shadow of its former self. It had been too much stress for her father to see his life's work going down the drain and his reputation sullied.
Syd turned the jeep into the track that lead to the homestead and pulled up behind the house. Her feet took her to the small cemetery out back, as they always did at the end of the day. She stood gazing down at the matching stones, side by side, those of her father and her mother. Al Carstairs had refused to ever leave Camaroo and insisted his family grant his request to be buried there.
She sighed deeply and tears misted her eyes. Her slim fingers stroked the beautiful Stuart Dessert Pea that grew alongside the graves. She loved and missed her mother, but she deeply mourned her father. Al Carstairs had been her anchor. He had taught her to fly against her mother's heated objections and had strongly encouraged her to go after her dream of a singing career.
"Syd!" Came the disgruntled voice of her younger sister. She turned around to see Cassie coming towards her, already dressed in a green linen sheath, her dark hair pulled away from her face with a matching ribbon. "Syd, you'd better hurry," urged Cassie, picking her way through the dusty track carefully, trying to keep her creamy pumps from getting dirty.
"I know, Cass," replied Syd walking to meet her sixteen-year-old sister. "I was just checking up on Dad."
"Not to be sarcastic or anything, but its not like he's going anywhere," complained Cassie, wishing Sydney would not be so melodramatic all the time. Cassie missed her father too, but she had been closer to her mother. Both girls turned as the honk of Evan's jeep sounded from the road, signaling his excitement.
"Wonder what's up with him?" exclaimed Cassie, wrinkling her delicate nose at the eternal dust billowing behind the jeep.
"I wonder if he got the Karamanda account," responded Syd, her eyes lighting up in excitement. She began to run towards the jeep as it entered the track to the house and was waiting by the back door when Evan pulled up. Cassie followed at a much slower pace, her pumps skirting the dirt clods disdainfully.
"We got it," crowed Evan as he killed the jeep and leaped from the vehicle. For an older man, he was still pretty agile, observed Syd. He grabbed her in a bear hug and swung her around.
"Put me down, Evan," she laughed, gasping for breath. "Oh, I'm so glad! I was hoping he might hire us, but it's been such a bad run the last two years, I never thought he would!"
"He almost didn't!" scowled Evan grimly. "He was NOT impressed with that stunt you pulled, Syd."
"Oh come on, Evan, you know I can take care of myself," scoffed Syd. "I've been doing that for ages and I know what I'm doing."
"You never know when something could come up and delay your air time, Syd," argued Evan anxiously. "And it could be anything, a bad break in the weather, an overshot of the runway, anything at all!"
He knew Syd flew by the seat of her pants most of the time. She had learned how to fly into Kalgoorlie and back with just enough fuel to get her back to their fueling tanks at Camaroo instead of filling up in town. She was trying very desperately to conserve money and wanted to use the reserves her father had stored over the years instead of having to pay for fuel. But with 30 more years of airtime under his belt than she had, he knew all too well that anything could go wrong at any time!
Syd opened her mouth to reassure him once again, but he cut her off.
"I don't deny the fact that you're a bloody good pilot," Evan argued. "But this is just plain foolhardy and its GOT to stop, Sydney Renee Carstairs!"
"I'll do what I think is necessary to rebuild Camaroo," warned Syd, her eyes glinting as she struggled to rein in her temper. This was Evan, her father's life long friend, and she had great respect for him. But he couldn't tell her what to do, she owned Camaroo!"
Evan stared at her, exasperated. "I should turn you over my knee and paddle some sense into you, Syd, but I'm afraid it's too late for that. Your father should have spanked you years ago!"
"You do and I'll fire you!" replied Syd dangerously, her voice holding a note of warning. He had a lot of nerve, threatening her like that. Her own father had never raised a hand to her and she wasn't about to let someone else do it!
Evan advanced on her, his brown eyes snapping, his worry for her safety overcoming his reticence. "You know bloody well you won't fire me, my girl, there is too much at stake now and we could lose Camaroo." Determined suddenly to teach her a lesson in safety, as well as manners, he reached out and took her by the arm. Propping his foot up on the back step, he deftly pulled her down over it and held her there with his left hand, while he raised his right hand and brought it down with a resounding slap on her dusty denim covered backside.
"You let me up this instant," raged Syd, surprised and angry at his actions. "Or I WILL bloody well fire you, Evan!"
He landed another slap on her rounded bottom, outlined in the bib covering and this time she squealed. "I better be hearing an apology and a promise not to do that again, or I'm going to wear your rear end out!" In for a penny, in for a pound he decided.
"All right, fine! I'm sorry, now let me up!" ground out Syd, her fury abating somewhat at his threat. She didn't really think he would, but she supposed she shouldn't have threatened to fire her loyal old friend.
"That's a little better," Evan replied dourly, standing her upright. He could see she was angry with him but he didn't care at that point. He cupped her chin in his large hand. "Now see here, young lady, you know I love you two girls like you were my own, and I would hate like hell to see anything happen to you," he told her gruffly.
At his words, Syd relented and let go of her anger. She hadn't really meant that she would fire him. She just didn't like being told what to do, even if it was for her own good.
"I know, Evan, I'm sorry," she answered softly. She put her arms around him and gave him a gentle hug. "Thank you for getting the Karamanda account. We do need to talk about it, but right now, I have to get changed and get to Kalgoorlie." She motioned to Cassie, who was still standing with her mouth open at the sight of Syd getting swatted by Evan.
"Uh, right ... I'm coming," she said, sidling past Evan and running up the steps. She didn't know what had gotten into the normally easygoing man, but she wasn't taking any chances.
The girls disappeared into the house and Evan smiled at Cassie's antics. It wasn't until he was on his way to his own home that it occurred to him that Syd had not promised to not fly short on fuel again. "Bloody hell," he bit out to no one in particular. "That girl needs someone to take her in hand, or mark my words, she is going to end up in trouble!"