Nobody but Him

By: Victoria Purman



‘Julia?’





CHAPTER

3


Julia heard her name above the crashing waves, above the wind, above the beating of her heart and the pounding in her head. She gripped her shaking coffee cup.

Ry.

He stood on the road, clad head-to-toe in black tight-fitting running gear, looking like a panther. Julia tried really hard not to notice that his clothes hugged every well-formed muscle in his body, outlining his strength in a silhouette against the brightness of the horizon. He stepped closer, from the roadway onto the grassed verge.

‘Julia?’ He said it again as if she hadn’t heard him the first time. He looked windswept and wild, his arms hanging loosely at his sides, his chest rising and falling with his breathing. He looked at her, then the house and back to her again. A what the fuck expression settled in the wrinkle between his eyebrows.

Julia lifted her chin and stiffened, pulled her dressing gown tight around her.

‘Nothing to see here. Keep running. Move along.’

Ry exhaled loudly and swore.

‘What are you doing here?’ He raised his hands, palms up, in a questioning move and he strode towards her across the garden, not stopping until they were just a few feet apart. His icy-blue stare searched every part of her face, before latching on to her eyes with a high-voltage intensity that made her blink nervously.

They regarded each other silently and warily for a long moment, so many unsaid words and accusations flying like an arcing electrical current in the air between them.

Finally, Julia answered as calmly as she could, ‘I’m having a cup of coffee, what does it look like?’

Ry drew in a huge breath and turned to face the beach, holding something in. A second later he turned on his heel to face her. ‘I mean … what are you doing back here in Middle Point? In this house? I thought your mother sold up years ago. It belongs to the Kinsellas now.’

Julia felt a jolt. He doesn’t know.

‘I’m just here for a few weeks, visiting the old hometown.’

‘Melbourne’s lost its charms, has it?’

She huffed, drawing her dressing gown tighter around her body. ‘Oh yes, because the weather here is so much nicer.’

‘So, how does it feel to be back?’

‘It’s fine, thank you.’

‘A bit sick of the bright lights and the big city, huh?’ His words were harsh. There was no humour in them and she felt the sting.

‘I wasn’t aware that I had to answer to the bloke who owns the pub.’

Ry took another step closer. He towered above her, his chest just inches away from her face, his intense and angry stare pinning her to the spot.

‘So that’s what you think of me? I’m just some bloke who owns the local watering-hole, am I?’

‘If the shoe fits.’

Ry’s eyes took a long, slow journey down her body to her ugg boots and he smirked.

‘Bet they go down a treat in Toorak.’

He was dangerously close to her and despite the wind whipping at them from the beach, she could feel his heat, so close, so dangerous. He lifted a hand to her face and she tried not to react when his rough fingers traced a line down her right cheek. She felt tattooed by his touch. Her body was betraying her, reacting in a way that her brain was telling her was so wrong. Her legs wobbled and her heart raced, throbbing a pulse in her chest.

When her brain finally kicked into gear against her hormones and won, she found the will to bat his hand away. But damn him, he stayed close. Intimidatingly close.

‘How would you know? You’re a South Aussie boy through and through, down to the toes of your R.M.Williams boots.’

‘And damn proud of it. Unlike some people I know.’

Julia took a step back to put some distance between them. ‘Look, I don’t need a job, so don’t worry your pretty little head about me turning up at the pub again.’

He scoffed. ‘Don’t think for one second I’d offer you one, JJ.’

And that was it. The bile rose in her throat and her fists clenched. So, he’d slummed it up one summer, but he’d clearly chosen a side since then. Hadn’t he always been one of them? Someone just like Lord and Lady Muck and The Princess, who regarded locals as if they were nothing more than worker bees, whose only role in life was to clean their homes and the streets once the holidays were over. People whose kids treated the town like it was the Gold Coast — schoolies and parties and fast cars and vomit and rubbish bins groaning with the smell of warm beer and cigarette ash. Locals were left to clean up the mess and shake their heads. She had to put up with people like him every day when she was growing up in this town and she was so over it.

‘Listen, you ungrateful jerk,’ she snapped. ‘I was helping out. You should be thanking me.’ She gripped her coffee cup tight in one hand and jabbed him in the chest with a finger. There was hard muscle underneath and she startled. She hadn’t remembered him being quite so powerfully built. Damn it. A scorching awareness pooled in her belly for an encore presentation.

‘Grateful? I should be grateful to you? What a fucking joke.’ Ry moved fast, grabbing her wrist with a strong grip and as his fingers tightened, she was sure he could feel her quickening pulse. He pulled her closer to him, snaking his other arm around her back, low and strong until they were crushed up against each other like it was rush hour on a Tokyo train.

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