When her beloved father dies, Eliza Mayberry’s privileged world comes crashing down around her ears. On the verge of losing the business that has been in her family for generations, she has no option but to take over the last remaining case: tracking down the elusive Fingal McLeod in outback New South Wales and bringing him back to Sydney.
He’d been a much better father than provider: always the one to brush her hair, take her to school, shop for ballet gear – in short, the perfect parent. Her mother, Angela, had always been far too busy. And five years ago when Angela had told them both, matter-of-factly as was her style, that she had an inoperable brain tumour, and had confirmed it by dying six weeks later, he had fallen apart.
Fin, however, has other ideas. Determined to find the legendary Dark Flame, a rare opal that has eluded opal-hunters for decades, he has no intention of leaving his mine to reunite with the family of the man who abandoned him – even for the beguiling Miss Mayberry.
His head pounding with the vibrations of the jackhammer, Fin shut it off with a vicious curse and sagged against the wall. His skin was drenched with sweat and his muscles burnt with fatigue.
‘You need a break, mate,’ he said. ‘When you start talking to yourself, you need a break.’ He laughed and it echoed around the tunnel like a madman’s mocking taunt.
Drawn to the people and starkly beautiful landscape of the desert, Eliza discovers the new start that she’s been seeking in this unlikely place and with a man who is as infuriating as he is intriguing. But as passion blooms under the scorching outback sun, secrets from the past and present are bubbling below the surface – secrets that could destroy both the fragile trust between Eliza and Fin, and the bright promise of the future.
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She stood on the small balcony of her room that night, staring out into infinity. The dusky hues of evening softened the harsh vista, and the clear sky was lit with an unknown number of stars. She felt enveloped and at the same time strangely liberated by the outback, as if anything was possible. There were worse places to hide.
Maybe she was coming down with a case of outback fever.