The Millionaire

By: Victoria Purman

A Hot Aussie Hero Novella



One







“It can’t be him.” Ellie Flannery stopped in her tracks and squinted into the brilliant Australian summer sunshine.

It bounced off the perfect, white sand all around her and beamed right up into her face like a flash light, half blinding her. It was only ten in the morning, but already, the blazing, January sun warmed her bare legs and the warm tickle of the Pacific Ocean waves lapped her toes as she sank a little into the sand and stared at the distant figure in the water.

“You’re totally imagining things,” she told herself. “It’s simply not possible.”

The bay of One Mile Beach was surrounded by sand dunes and natural scrub, and the beach curved between two jutting headlands that marked the coast like bookends. Ellie’s best friend Bron had recently moved there, and Ellie had scored an extra day off work to visit the small coastal town. She’d thought she was the only one on the beach that quiet Monday.

She shook her head. Maybe the sea air and the glare had fired up her imagination. She shielded her eyes with a flat hand and tried to focus on the person in the distance to make sure she wasn’t going mad.

It wasn’t the shoulders she recognised – lots of surfers were built like Olympic swimmers. And it wasn’t the height. Or the tanned. Or the abs or the flat stomach. Or the black board shorts which looked vacuum-sealed against his hips and his muscular thighs. Everywhere she turned in Australia she copped an eyeful of guys like that.

It was the hair. The shoulder length cascade of blond that the man pushed off his forehead with a wave of his hand as he emerged from the surf. Wet and slick and his trademark.

She would know that hair anywhere. She would know him anywhere.

It was him. One hundred per cent.

It was Chris Malone.

He was just as famous for his photographs of war-torn and disaster-ravaged parts of the world as he was for his locks. He’d been shot at by the Taliban, almost swept away by hurricanes, been thrown in jail, and come perilously close to causing diplomatic incidents a number of times. All because he used a camera like a weapon to reveal horror, show compassion, and expose the truth.

Ellie was a reporter on a small Sydney suburban paper and knew him by reputation. One of his stills from the 2004 Indonesian earthquake and tsunami was her computer’s screen saver. She looked it every day, and every day it inspired her to try and capture with her words what he’d managed to capture with none.

“It’s Chris Malone,” she whispered in to the salty breeze. “I knew it.”

He was striding towards her, a surfboard under his right arm, half-walking, half-jogging out of the water. And Ellie tingled. It had nothing to do with the body heading in her direction and everything to do with the realisation that she had a scoop on her hands. And the chance to ask him a favour she knew he wouldn’t be able to refuse. She glanced up and down the beach. No one else was around.

There was just her and Chris Malone. She’d caught the world-famous photojournalist, surfing on an isolated beach, two and a half hours north of Sydney. She was already writing the headline in her head.

Ellie reached into her loose shirt and pulled her iPhone from her swimsuit. It was the only place she could tuck the thing and she never went anywhere without it. She could use it to record an interview, since she didn’t have a pen and notepad with her, and then snap a few pictures.

He was twenty feet away and she was staring. She couldn’t help it. It was Chris Malone. With the hair. And the reputation.

Then he was ten feet from her.

She noticed a heavy, black watch on his left wrist and followed a vein all the way up to the crook of his elbow. If he had a tan line on his hips she couldn’t see it, and there wasn’t a mark on his chest to ruin the sheer perfection of his muscles and corrugations and his perfectly rounded pecs.

And then there were only a few strides between them.

He was so close she could see the droplets of water drizzling down his stunning chest.

Her heart began to thump wildly and her pulse set off on a jog. The words came out before she could stop them, tumbling from her parched lips like the waves on the sand behind them.

“Good surfing out there today?” She wanted to kick herself. Her voice made her sound like a groupie and not like the professional colleague she was. Not that she thought she was in his league by any stretch, but still. She had skills, although they’d apparently deserted her at that very moment.

He stopped. “Excuse me?” Malone raised his eyebrows in a question. The grains of sand that were caught in his neatly trimmed beard were shimmering in the sunlight. When Ellie looked into his eyes they were curious rather than annoyed.

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