As the sun rises in the Australian Outback, and flowers open in the delicate morning sunlight, two people drive through the silent land, sharing the beauty unfolding around them. They only have eyes for each other.
Danni and Jim's journey started as a quest to find the truth, but soon they begin to realize that this journey may really be one of the heart...
Melissa James brings you a story about the complexity of love and life, and how finding forgiveness within can set you free.
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July 10, 2007
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Excerpt from Her Outback Knight by Melissa James
Thommo's Steak House, Bathurst, two years later
FINALLY, TWO YEARS AFTER the rest of her class, his best friend had graduated--and all her friends and family, including her husband and daughter, were here to celebrate the event.
After years of thinking Laila was the woman for him, Jim had wondered how he'd feel, seeing her as another man's wife, a mother, and pregnant again.
Now he knew.
The last flare of useless wishes and longings had ended three years ago, when he'd met Jake Sutherland, and known he was the man for her--so he'd helped them come together. His smile tonight was one of genuine joy for her happiness. He wished Laila the best in life, as he did for his sisters--and he knew she had it.
If he wondered when it'd be his turn, when he'd find a woman he truly cared for from the heart, who could love him back...well, that was natural, right? He was from a big, happy family, and he'd always wanted that kind of love and stability for himself.
A shame all he'd got the past few years was the kind of funtime girls who filled hours, not his life or heart. Why was it that the women who chased him were lightweights, and the women he really wanted, the kind of girls he could take home to meet the family, always saw him as a brother?
"I'm out. I'm getting some real action."
With a tiny start, he remembered he'd brought Shana tonight. He almost rolled his eyes at her terminology--Shana was twenty-two, but had an addiction to Hollywood teen flicks. He'd only brought her because she'd never been to Bathurst, and she'd begged to come.
Nice kid, but a lightweight, as always. "Sorry, Shana. I guess it's rough when you don't know anyone," he offered, knowing it sounded lame.
Her pretty, over-made-up face was pouting. "Even rougher when your date can't take his eyes off another girl," she muttered, for his ears alone.
Jim frowned. "It's her night. She's my best friend, and graduated two years after the rest of us. It's only right she gets the attention. For Pete's sake, she's a married woman!"
Shana's brows lifted. "Who, the brunette across from you?" A lightning-fast streak ran through him, a frisson of something--he didn't know what. Slowly, almost disbelieving, he turned around.
Danni Morrison was sitting across from him.
He'd been looking at Danni? Danni with the smart mouth and the bitter disgust of all men? Why on earth would he be looking at her?
Funny, but now he was looking, it felt natural--as if he'd been watching her so long that she'd slid into his comfort zone.
No. He could never call anything about Danni comfortable. haunting face. More than pretty, not quite lovely, but delicate, dark and wistful, he knew if he ever had to describe her to an artist, he could have recalled each feature. He could have done so any time in the past ten years.
Why, he didn't know; she'd never treated him with anything but disdain and sarcasm. After ten years he knew almost nothing about her--she'd never let any guy close enough to her to know her. What he did know of her made him certain she wasn't the sort of woman he'd want in his life. He'd always hated the kind of mordant sarcasm she used as a protective shell around her.
Yet, he could drink in her face all night and never tire of it. Had he been staring at her all night without being aware of it? It seemed ridiculous to him, yet he was doing it now, and it didn't feel like the first time.
"Yeah, good luck with that," came the quiet, mocking voice in his ear. "I'd never have thought a human battlefield was your type. I'm off to find a nightclub. I'll get my own way back home."
Shana picked up her bag and walked out. Jim knew he should call her back, or at least offer to drive her somewhere, but his manners had deserted him. He was too stunned by the fact that he couldn't stop staring at the woman across from him.
Danni shifted on her seat and frowned at her plate of baked vegetables as if she sensed his gaze, or his inner disquiet. Or maybe it was the steak house getting to her...if she was still a strict vegetarian as she'd been during their university days.
She was as ethereal as she'd always been. He'd have thought almost two years in Europe, working, touring and visiting her German relatives would have fattened her up a bit, but she still had that waiflike look to her--the touch of faerie. Dark hair like a waving river down her back, fathomless caramel-brown eyes and restless hands; her features so delicate she seemed lost inside her gentle prettiness.
Until she opened her mouth, that is. Then the notion that she was a delicate woman in need of male protection was blasted apart. She could give an armoured tank lessons on keeping up protective shells.