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Will dropped his surfboard and Cleo let hers fall to the sand as he pulled her into his arms. For one boundless moment their lips met, their bodies, slick with seawater, sliding together as one. Then he released her.

Trembling, her body on fire, Cleo stumbled and almost fell into the shallow water, only managing to retain her balance in time to see a woman she instantly recognised standing facing them, her face contorted into a grimace.

‘Will!’ The woman’s voice was filled with vitriol. ‘You told me you didn’t have any clients today.’

She ignored Cleo completely.

‘Not now, Joy. Can’t you see I’m busy?’

There was an edge to Will’s voice Cleo hadn’t heard before. Despite the warmth of the sun on her back, she shivered.

‘Busy?’ Joy sneered. ‘Is that what you call it? I’ve been watching you.

‘Cleo’s a friend, not a client.’

Joy snorted. She stood glaring at them for a moment, then turned on her heel and strode off as fast as she could on the soft sand.

Will laughed. Cleo didn’t. ‘What an awful woman,’ she said.

‘I thought I’d give her something to dissuade her, to show her it was no use pursuing me, seems to have worked. Sorry.’ Will put an arm around Cleo’s shoulders. ‘Let’s get you home and dry. Joy was right about one thing,’ he said as he led Cleo to his van. ‘I don’t have any clients booked in today. Why don’t I drop you home so you can shower and change, then, when I’ve done the same, I pick you up and take you to lunch?’

‘Sounds wonderful,’ Cleo said, glad to be away from the beach and out of Joy Taylor’s way


Cleo felt a little better once she had showered and changed into a pair of beige pants and one of the new tops she now owned thanks to several trips toBirds of a Feather. Greta was becoming used to seeing her in the shop. This one was in a deep blue shade which Hannah said matched her eyes.

But as she brushed her hair and applied makeup, she shivered at the memory of the hateful expression in Joy Taylor’s eyes. Will may believe seeing him and Cleo together would stop the woman pursuing him, but Cleo couldn’t dismiss the sliver of fear she felt. She had the distinct impression Joy Taylor was a woman who didn’t like to be crossed, who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted. And she wanted Will Rankin.

For a moment, Cleo stared into the mirror wondering what she was doing, wishing she’d never met the man. Then she remembered Will’s gentle nature, his kindness, how it felt to be in his arms, in his bed, and gave herself a shake. How could she even contemplate allowing this woman to ruin what might turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to her?

Cleo was still arguing with herself when there was a knock at the door, and she heard Will’s voice calling her name. She grimaced at her reflection in the mirror, picked up her bag, put a smile on her face and opened the door.

‘Sorry to keep you waiting,’ she said, only to be pulled into a warm hug.

Then Will held her at arm’s length. ‘You okay?’ he asked. ‘Don’t let her get to you. It’s what she’d want.’

How did he know?

‘I can see from your expression you’re still a bit shaken. I know exactly what you need.’ Will’s scooter was standing at the kerb, but he led her past it.

‘Where are we going?’

‘Coop told me about the pasta they serve at the Italian place on the esplanade. Their cannelloni, garlic bread and Lambrusco are reported to be to die for and guaranteed to sweep away any lingering memory of what happened on the beach. Then I intend to take you home and help you forget in another way.’ He grinned, forcing Cleo to grin back. ‘I hope you like Italian food.’

‘Love it.’ Cleo hadn’t eaten inThe Firenze,Bellbird Bay’s Italian restaurant, but had heard good reports about it, and it was one of Bev Cooper’s favourite restaurants. It was run by an Italian family who had lived here for several generations. Cleo’s mouth began to water at the prospect of an authentic Italian meal, and all thoughts of Joy Taylor disappeared.


‘How was your day off?’

Cleo stopped and looked up when Bev walked into the kitchen as she was unpacking the batch of cakes Ruby had delivered. The elderly woman had arrived on her bicycle as usual with several containers of baking and headed off again with only a few words – unusual for her.

‘Let me put these in the cool room and I’ll make us some tea if you have time.’

‘Lovely. Julie is taking care of things in the garden centre, so I can take a break,’ Bev said, referring to the woman who was her most senior staff member. ‘Can I do anything to help?’

‘I’m good, thanks. Take a seat. Won’t be long.’

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