Alannah Harte is here to showcase her new release The Best Part of Breaking Up. Set in the Australian outback, this fab tale is bound to heat you up.
Alannah is giving away an e-copy to one lucky commenter, so do leave her a comment!
Rafe McGraw is a tough rancher who spends his time farming a wild and untamable cattle ranch in the Northern Territory of Australia.
Jenna Davidson is bright, feisty, and not afraid of a little hard work. She's not going to let anyone get in the way of her dream to be a flying vet.
Rafe has cattle to get certified for export by the flying vet during his cattle muster. He is expecting his usual vet to show up but the person getting off the plane is not what he expects.
Jenna has encountered all kinds of farmers and their attitudes since starting her job, but the gorgeous, sulking, arrogant grazer is a definite challenge. If that means flying in a week of living outdoors with a sexy grazer growling at her, then she's up for it.
After eight hours, during which they moved more than sixty kilometers over wild terrain to seek out more of the herd, with general consensus from everyone they called it a day. A camp was set up beneath a glen of trees and a campfire lit. The trucks had generators and each cabin had a sleeping berth, but the men preferred to sleep under the stars and they would cook on the fire tonight.
Jenna would have loved to crawl onto a soft mattress herself in one of the truck's sleeping cabins, shut the door on all the alpha men, and get some desperately needed sleep, but that would just be giving into what they expected of her. She was going to rough it like everyone else.
Rafe handed her a small bag with a grim smile. “Your tent,” he told her unnecessarily.
She could see it was a tent. It was a two-man dome tent used for hiking, because it was lightweight and easily erected, but certainly not as comfortable as her bed would have been after leaning over fences all day. Jenna's back ached and the bottoms of her feet were tender, having perched on fencing poles all day.
“Get that up and you can have a good rest,” he told her, his face a study of seriousness.
I have to put up my own tent, too? Fine!
She had put up tents before. She knew he was ascertaining his authority and illustrating his little regard for a woman who couldn't pull her weight like the rest of the men in the caravan.
“Do you think you can manage that?” he asked her.
“I can manage all sorts of things.” Jenna let her voice drawl over the words and she raised an eyebrow at him.
Rafe smiled at the corner of his mouth. “Good, I wouldn't want the boys to have to do extra work.”
No fear of that. She had done all of the crazy work today and the men had let her.
With a thump, the pegs and a small hammer dropped out of the bag. Jenna stepped over them and shook out the tent.
How hard could it be? She glared at the various poles that needed to be fed into the canvas to make the frame and took an educated guess at the right one. Within a few moments she had a good representation of a dome in front of her and Jenna pulled it across to a site she liked.
“I wouldn't leave it there.” The grazier's voice carried across the camp, hands on hips. He appeared to be laughing at her.
“Why ever not?” she asked gruffly.
“You're the vet, Jenna. Surely you recognize anthills when you see them. I suggest you bring your tent closer to the campfire if you want to save yourself from being bitten.”
Shaking her head and muttering under her breath, Jenna dragged the tent behind her, its light weight helping it to flap in the breeze. She dropped it a few feet from the campfire and on a flat piece of dried earth, clear of all signs of anthills, then she went back to retrieve the pegs and hammer.
“Let me do that for you,” Grey the drover said. It was the first time he had spoken to her all day and Jenna looked at him with mild suspicion.
“I should really do it myself. I wouldn't want your boss accusing me of not pulling my weight.”
“You've done more than pull your weight today, missy. I've been watching you. Never mind the boy. He's new at playing the boss and is trying to ascertain his authority.”
“You're sure about that? I get the distinct impression he doesn't care for me. Or maybe its women in general he doesn't like.”
Grey barked a laugh that made Rafe stare over at them, his expression dark and unreadable. The drover took the hammer from her hand. It looked like a toy in his large grip. With quick and assured strikes, he pegged the tent into place.
“He likes women enough—don't be mistaking that he doesn't. You would be just his type if he wasn't going around with a chip on his shoulder.”
“Well, that's fascinating, but he's not my type, and I didn't come out here looking for romance and certainly not with someone who had a block on their shoulder either.” Jenna wanted to ask what was Rafe McGraw's problem but she had been brought up to mind her own business when it came to the private lives of others. She wasn't about to start asking the drover impertinent questions about his boss.
“Out here in these wilds it's never about the romance, missy, it’s all about the loving.” Grey's eyes twinkled mischievously and Jenna had the good sense to blush to her roots. “But that is not talk I should be having with a lady such as you.” He continued smiling benignly at her, though she didn't believe he was that innocent at all.
“I don't think so either,” she scowled.
“Hmm, well, we will see.” Grey returned the hammer to her, and whistling gently, he sauntered off across the camp to his own swag.
See what? She brought her hold all into the tent and rested on her knees for a minute, enjoying the little privacy the tent could afford her against the eyes of all the men outside. A cough sounded at the entrance and alerted her that Rafe was waiting. She pivoted on her knees and pushed the flap of the entrance aside. A floor mat, sleeping bag, and pillow were roughly handed in.
“You'll be needing these,” he told her gruffly.
“Such a host! You think of everything.” She felt silly for betraying her true feelings with the sarcasm dripping in her voice but the man was bringing out the worst in her.
“Well, seeing as you're the only vet to be had around these parts, I better make sure you can continue the job tomorrow.”
“Ah, so I can do the job now then? What happened to ‘this is no place for a woman’?” She threw back his words tartly.
Rafe knelt and pushed his head through the open flap. Jenna had to lean back into the tent as he crowded the space with his large frame.
“This is no place for a woman, but here we are and here you are, and I'm putting up with it.”
He really does have the most gorgeous eyes. The errant thought came into her head and Jenna clenched her fists. She did not find this Neanderthal attractive, she really didn't. Of course she was still aware of him, had been all day as he straddled the top of the cattle race fencing with those trunk-like thighs of his. He had even gotten in between the cows with his broad shoulders when they wouldn't move by themselves. His jeans were ripped at the knees and he wore a black cotton shirt, sleeves rolled up to his biceps, and several buttons left undone, so that the thick column of his neck and the hint of those torso muscles were on show. He was rugged and bad and infuriatingly handsome. He was not going to distract her with it! She was determined about that.
“You have got to be the most gracious and grateful person that I have ever met,” she said sarcastically, with a pronounced inflection, and smiled serenely back at his scowling face. Rafe's eyes narrowed dangerously and his lip curled in distaste, but instead of withdrawing as she hoped, he crawled into the tent forcing her against the back canvas. She sat down on her bottom with a bump.
“You managed fine today, Miss Davidson, but we'll see how you do tomorrow. How are your feet?” He took a booted foot in his hand, startling her as he rested it in the cradle of his thighs and began to unlace them from around her ankle.
“They are fine,” she lied, attempting to pull her foot back, but his grip was firm and unyielding.
“You're a terrible liar, you know that?” With gentleness that she had not expected, Rafe eased the heavy steel-capped boot from her foot. “Not only have I noticed you limping slightly since you came down off the cattle race,” he continued conversationally, “but you’re also taking pleasure from this foot massage.” He manipulated her foot between his two palms, and despite her best intentions Jenna sighed in relief.
Jenna's eyes widened in horror. “I am doing no such thing!” This time she did remove her foot from his grasp and pulled it beneath her bottom.
Rafe shrugged a shoulder, “Be a martyr then. Your feet won't thank you for it. I am an excellent foot masseuse.”
“I'm sure you say that to all the girls.”
“You know me so well.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her suggestively.
I don't know you at all. The unspoken words hung between them. For a moment they simply stared at one another. Jenna raked her mind for something sensible and straightforward to say but her brain and her body were not in a generous mood. Most of her wit and sensibility was lost in her sated foot.
Rafe seemed to have none of those problems, much to her annoyance. He crawled backward out of the tent.
“There is supper and coffee up for grabs. Come when you're ready, but I wouldn't leave it too long—those boys are ravenous and won't leave leftovers.” She heard him whistling for his dog as he walked away, but he was whistling as if mocking her.