Back Cover Blurb
Aspiring author Jessica Butler-Reid has never done anything exciting in her entire life. The daughter of a Minister and his aging wife, she sees her life heading down the same tedious predictable path as her mom’s, organizing church fetes, bazaars, and bake-offs. But when she innocently posts a help request on an Internet forum for some technical advice with her book, her life is changed forever when Australian cattle rancher, Whip McGregor, answers the call.Jessica embarks on an adventure of a lifetime, but little does she know her decision to accept his offer of a two-week paid vacation to the land Down Under will, jeopardize more than one life and, have far-reaching consequences neither she nor Whip could have for have foreseen.
Whip McGregor’s steps were purposeful as he strode down the hall and out the front door and headed across the patchy yard to the garage. It was early, not even six, yet the sun was already high. A golden orb in a cloudless sky, it promised to be another blistering day with no drought relief in sight.
He paused by the stables and narrowing his gaze, cast it over the property. McGregor land stretched before him as far as the eye could see. Sun-scorched and unforgiving, a land of beauty and promise, of dreams both shattered and fulfilled. A harsh land, a lucky land, a land of contradiction. His heart held a passion for it that a stranger could not hope to fathom.
He stopped for a brief word with Cyril, a hired hand, who was seated on a bale of hay outside the barn puffing on a hand-rolled.
“When are you going to give that up? Those things will kill you as sure as the sun sets in the west.”
“The day you walk down the aisle, young Whip.”
The spry little man had christened him Whip the day he’d taught him to crack a bullwhip at the age of five, and the nickname had just stuck.
“I seem to remember you making that same promise to Travis, old man.” Whip smiled at the mention of his twin’s marriage.
Cyril blew out a thin plume of blue smoke and squinted in the sunlight. He’d been working McGregor land since
Methuselah was a boy and was more like a family member than the hired help.
“She’s fuelled and ready to go,” he said, dangling the set of car keys in the air.
Whip took the keys and gave the old man’s shoulder a squeeze. “Thanks, mate, I’ll see you when I get back.”
Eager to be on the road, Whip lengthened his stride and hurried into the barn-sized garage. He folded his length into the big black Ute and switched on the ignition. The V8 engine roared to life like a mighty beast, and as he shifted into gear, the thought skimmed across his mind that the car was as anxious to be on the road to Sydney as he was.
With hands placed at ten and two on the wheel, he steered the vehicle past the stables and the big house, then followed the road until he came to the stock hands’ quarters. The men were just coming in for breakfast after getting an early start. Whip slowed the vehicle and raised a hand in response to their greetings before driving by and heading for the boundary.
Ten minutes later, coasting down the dusty track and about to leave the property through the last gate, another vehicle appeared, flicked its lights, then pulled to a stop by the exit.
Damn. He eased the Ute to a standstill before stepping out onto the dirt to wait for Travis.
Ever since his twin had married last Christmas, Travis had been giving him grief and been damn near impossible to live with. He kept ear-bashing him that as the eldest McGregor, although only by sixteen minutes, it was high time he tied the knot, too. The nagging had become worse over the last few days since he’d announced to the family Jessica was flying in from New York.
The way Travis had been acting you’d think she was coming to get hitched instead of only for a two-week visit from America. Whip thanked his lucky stars Brenda, the baby of the family, was still away at boarding school. It was bad enough Drew and Mark, his two younger brothers, were on semester break from University. From the minute they’d discovered he was having an Internet relationship, they’d been tenacious with their tormenting, like a dog gnawing a bone, razzing him up and paying him out at every opportunity.
Sure it was harmless, and the ‘butt ugly’ comments were only said to get a rise out of him, but they were starting to wear thin. It was for that reason he’d told his brothers he was leaving at seven o’clock this morning when in fact it was only six, hoping to be long gone before they’d realized what he’d done.
“Gee, mate, five more minutes and I would have missed you.” Travis’ grin leaped across his face as he slammed the car door and walked toward him.
“Yeah, I always was lucky.” The reply was delivered, tongue in cheek. He should’ve known better than to try and pull a fast one on his twin.
The sound of motorbike engines cutting across the property had Whip whirling on his heel to face south. “You didn’t tell the other two, did you?”
“Bet your balls I did. I figured you’d try and get away early, and no way we’d let you go to the big smoke without a proper send-off.”
A cheesy grin split Travis’ face, a mirror image of his own, his gray eyes crinkling with devilment while Whip narrowed his with annoyance.
Drew and Mark skidded the bikes to a halt, sending clouds of dust from the dirt road wafting over Travis and him as they stood by the Ute.
“You two clowns are just fucking hilarious,” Whip roared and slapped at the red dust beginning to settle on his jeans and shirt. “Have a look at what you’ve done.” He swept his hand down the front of his now pink-tinged denims.
“Settle down. You’ve got a change of clothes packed, haven’t you?” Mark, the youngest male McGregor, sniggered without an ounce of sympathy. It was their way of teaching him a lesson for lying and trying to sneak off. Whip knew there’d be retribution; he’d just expected it to be when he got back.
“You two are bloody impossible. Why aren’t you out with the herd anyway?” he asked, his voice gruff with exasperation.
“Couldn’t let you leave without some brotherly advice,” Drew explained. He was the next brother down from him and Travis, and at twenty-two, younger than them by nine years.
“This’ll be good.” Knowing he had little choice, Whip rested his hip against the vehicle and with arms folded, waited for the inevitable.
“If it does turn out she’s been hit with the ugly stick, remember to still play nice. Ugly girls have feelings, too.” Drew’s grin was smug as he flipped Whip’s chest with the back of his hand.
“Yeah, and it’s for two weeks. Fourteen long days and fourteen even longer nights, twenty-four/seven bro with no escape.” Mark’s cheeks dimpled with glee as he supplied the timeline.
“Ah-ha.” This was the very advice he’d hoped to avoid.
“Ugly ones need lovin’, too, you know, and she’ll be expecting it, so do us proud big brother and keep up your end of the bargain, if you get my drift.” Drew was in his element, his eyes twinkling in the sunlight, and his lips curving upward at the banter.
“And if she’s not ugly, then she’s probably got half a dozen ankle biters, hairy pits, and smokes like a chimney.” Mark chuckled, tossing him a packet of condoms that Whip caught singlehanded. “Ease up, guys. Jessica could very well be your new sister-in-law, and don’t forget it works both ways,” Travis cut across their laughter, and with a light thump, clipped Whip on the chin with his fist. “She’s flying all this way to spend the next two weeks looking at this ugly mug.”
“I think you guys are getting a bit ahead of yourselves.” Whip lifted his hand to his chin. His jaw didn’t hurt but he worked it for effect anyway. “And, Travis, I realize I’m no oil painting but neither are you, and yet, you still managed to talk the prettiest girl in town into marrying you.”
“Yeah, but unlike you, mate, I was blessed with a winning personality and a shitload of charm.”
Their two youngest brothers groaned and Drew voiced his disagreement, “Get real, Annie was exhausted. Ten years of you chasing her just wore the poor girl out. She didn’t have a choice but to marry you.”
“All jokes aside, guys, you will behave and make Jess’ stay here as pleasant as possible, right?”
Travis’ words held a hint of menace and for that, Whip was thankful.
He watched on amused as his twin eyeballed their younger siblings, daring them to contradict. The boys were notorious far and wide for some of the pranks they’d pulled over the years. Both he and Travis had read them the riot act more times than he cared to remember.
“Re-lax, we’re just taking the piss out of him.” Mark flicked his shaggy head in his direction.
Whip cocked a brow but held his tongue. The sooner this was over the sooner he’d be on his way.
“We’re just hoping she’ll give the big lug here something else to do besides busting our balls,” Drew elaborated, giving him his cue to make a move.
“As much as I’d like to stay and listen to more of your dribble, I’ve got more pressing places to be.” Whip folded himself back into the driver’s seat and kicked over the engine. “Get the gate for me, Drew, and Travis, be sure and keep these two in line until I get back.”
“Don’t sweat it. They’ll be so busy fixing fences and doing your chores they won’t have time to itch, let alone scratch. You just enjoy the break and make sure you call me as soon as you collect her.”
“Don’t hold your breath, little brother. Calling you will be the last thing on my mind.” He grinned, knowing that the little brother comment would piss Travis off. “But I’ll give you a call when I’m heading home, probably won’t be before Friday, though.”
“Travel safe, bro.” Travis tapped the roof of the vehicle twice before stepping aside.
His other brothers added their good-byes, and Drew swung the gate wide.
Whip gave them a salute, then started the car and drove through the opening. A toot of the horn was his final farewell as he turned off the property and accelerated onto the asphalt road.
As he motored along, thoughts of the three siblings filled his mind and a smile crept onto his face. They were royal pains in the ass but good men all the same, and he wouldn’t trade them for gold. But he shook his head at his own stupidity. What a dumbass for not being savvy enough to realize they wouldn’t let him make the long trip to Sydney without seeing him off.
With little to no traffic on the highway, he put the Ute on cruise control and drove on autopilot. The car chewed up the miles, and having not much else to occupy him and plenty of time on his hands, his thoughts turned to Jessie Rose.
Sure, he was taking a chance, but as the old cliché went—nothing ventured, nothing gained. And despite all the jokes his brothers made to the contrary, he was easy on the eye, and Jessie Rose would not be disappointed with what she saw, that much he knew. He wasn’t vain nor was he blind. The evidence stared him in the mirror every day, and attracting women had never been a problem for him.
Over the years, many people had told him he was handsome, sexy, he’d even overheard himself referred to as a hunk. But looks were never big on his list of priorities and were even less so now he was older.
Yeah, it would be a bonus if she was a looker. More important for him though, and what he desired most, was someone who’d stick by him come hell or high water. Someone smart and funny and not shy between the sheets, someone he could talk to and not get bored with, someone like Jessie Rose.
Layne lives with her husband, two dogs, and a cat on the mid-eastern coast of New South Wales, Australia. In addition to being an author she has a degree in history and holds down a full-time job.
She has always been an avid reader and voraciously consumes all types of fiction, but she particularly loves a happy ending, so writing romance seemed a natural progression for her. But as she sat at the computer one day — staring at a blank screen — it all seemed rather daunting. Yet once she finally started tapping on the keys, the words kept flowing, and what was meant to be a short story turned into a full-blown novel, Desire Unleashed, the first book in the “Desire” series.
Layne writes contemporary romance, paranormal, and sci-fi. With her passion for travel and a love of history an historical romance is not outside the realms of possibility.
When she’s not writing, you might find her tackling a craft project, walking by the lake, or in the kitchen creating some culinary delights.
Obsession Down Under - Release 4 March 2015
Soul Mate Publishing