Nobody but Him

By: Victoria Purman



Lizzie put the beer on the bar, before staring back at him like he was crazy. ‘She’s my best friend. She’s saved our bacon tonight.’

Ry could see the question in Lizzie’s eyes but he wasn’t about to give her any explanation.

She hesitated before asking, ‘Why, do you want her number or something?’

‘Shit no,’ he said quickly, adamantly. Not in a million years.

‘Don’t tell me she misbehaved.’

‘No, she didn’t misbehave.’ In fact, Ry thought, he might have acted in exactly the same way if he’d worn the brunt of the sly digs and rudeness from his table. But there was only one thing to do. No question.

He squared his shoulders and looked Lizzie in the eye. ‘Pay her what she’s earned and some extra for her inconvenience but I don’t want her back here.’

He turned and strode back to the table, leaving Lizzie open-mouthed in his wake.

‘Blackburn, is everything all right?’ His friend and architect David Winter sipped his scotch and raised his enormous grey eyebrows in concern. For the first time, Ry realised they looked like hairy caterpillars lurking on his forehead.

‘Sorry about that everyone. Just a minor crisis behind the bar that needed sorting out.’ He forced a smile. ‘Everyone ready to order?’

‘Yes, we’re starved! But let’s try to get someone else to serve us.’ Amanda propped her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her interlinked fingers. She threw Ry a huge smile and tossed her hair, giggling at her own joke.

Ry turned away from her. ‘So David, tell me about the plans. Have you had the surveyors in yet?’

Ry made sure to smile and nod at the appropriate intervals as David began describing, in great detail, the topography of the Fleurieu Peninsula and the implications for any housing development. Ry made sure to smile and nod because not one single syllable of what David was saying was making any sense. He might as well have been speaking Norwegian. The evening had gone straight to hell, and Ry knew he was trapped at the table with his architect, David’s wife Annie and their daughter Amanda, who was now gazing into his eyes and laughing way too loud.

As he watched them chatter and make decisions about dinner, debate the relative merits of the kangaroo fillet or the Asian-inspired crispy fish, his mind was a million miles and fifteen years back.

Surfing, sunscreen, salty chips and sex.

Julia Jones.





CHAPTER

2


Julia leaned over the hand basin, filled her cupped hands with water and splashed her face for the second time. Droplets hung from her nose, her eyelashes and the ringlets on either side of her face that refused to be confined in a ponytail. The jolt of it was nothing like the electric shock she’d just had.

He’s out there.

She took a quick glance in the mirror, hoping the second splash of water hadn’t smudged her mascara into panda eyes. No, it was still intact and she looked away. She didn’t want to judge what the anxious look on her face was all about. She pressed her shaking palms onto her blazing cheeks, closed her eyes and let out a deep breath. She felt sick, and the mysterious pounding in her chest seemed to be related to her sudden inability to breathe.

How long had it been? Fifteen years? Ry looked older, of course, but time had been incredibly kind. Hell, not just kind, she had to admit. Like the best wine, he’d improved with age. Damn it. Did he have to look so good? He was a man now, not the lanky teenager she’d known, physically stronger than she remembered, more imposing, bigger, somehow. His eyes were still that intense, almost transparent blue she recognised, but when he’d turned them on her in a cold, hard glare just now, she’d noticed the dark shadows under them.

She was worried about having left Lizzie in the lurch but needed just a few seconds more to stop and breathe. Just one more minute to get it together, that’s all I need. And I’ll go right back out there to face my demons.

Who was Ryan Blackburn now? Was he married? Julia couldn’t remember seeing a wedding ring on his finger, but that was hardly surprising, given the five seconds she’d spent staring at him before performing her disappearing act into the ladies’ loo. And what about The Princess. Was that pert young thing at the table his wife? Fifteen years was a long time and Julia figured that a man like him would surely be married, and be in possession of the regulation sandstone villa in the leafy suburbs, the appropriate number of tousle-haired blond children and a chocolate labrador. And when the family wasn’t tumbling around in the landscaped gardens of their perfect suburban hideaway, they would drive down to Middle Point in their late-model Volvo to spend time in their million-dollar weekender with their beautifully dressed friends and their designer children.

She suddenly felt relieved. Crass generalisations did save time after all.

‘Julia?’ The door swung open and Lizzie poked her head around it.

‘Yeah, I’m in here,’ Julia replied, her voice shaky.

Lizzie walked in, let the door close behind her and stopped short at the sight of her friend. ‘God, you look terrible. Oh no, don’t tell me you’ve got the lurgy too? Here I was blaming the Gen Ys for being soft.’

▶ Also By Victoria Purman

▶ Last Updated

▶ Hot Read

▶ Recommend

Top Books