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Meantime, Will and his group of supporters had been trying to figure out something which would stop the developers in their tracks. Until now, turtle hatching had been their greatest hope, but they weren’t optimistic it would sway the committee. The business and construction lobby were determined the development would go ahead, and they had a lot of support, too. It was all too easy for them to dismiss the opposition to the scheme as nothing more than a crowd of radical greenies who wanted to stop progress.

He was still thinking about it when he arrived at the restaurant but tried to focus on the company and the purpose of the evening.The Beach Housewas Bellbird Bay’s premier restaurant, situated on a prime piece of land and sitting on the edge of the ocean. Tonight, it looked as splendid as ever, the setting sun shimmering on the tall glass walls which faced the sea and the horizon.

‘Hello, you two.’ He greeted Cleo with a hug and a kiss and Kerri-Ann with a peck on the cheek. He’d arranged to meet them there. ‘Is…?’ he asked, looking around.

‘I expect Owen will come with Hannah and Nate. She’s promised to be here. Nate, too.’ Cleo smiled. ‘I’m so pleased they’re together. And…’ she turned to face Kerri-Ann, ‘…that your quick action made tonight possible.’

Kerri-Ann flushed. ‘Here they are,’ she said, as Owen, Hannah and Nate appeared, walking towards them.

‘I think champagne is called for,’ Will said, when the greetings were over, and everyone was seated. ‘Cleo?’

‘I agree,’ she said, smiling. ‘It’s a celebration.’

Hannah scowled but didn’t disagree.

‘We may have even more to celebrate,’ Will said, when they had all taken their first sip of the sparkling wine. ‘I spoke with young Zack Crawford today.’

‘Owen’s competition,’ Nate joked.

Owen gave him a friendly punch on the arm.

‘It wasn’t about surfing. He wanted to tell me he saw dugongs in the bay off Dolphin Beach. If this is true, we may have a case.’

‘Dugongs… they’re endangered,’ Kerri-Ann said. ‘Haven’t they been seen here before?’

‘Not to my knowledge, and not in that bay, though they have been found further along the coast. I need to remind myself why they are in the endangered category, to figure out if it can help us.’ He frowned.

‘It’s the sea grass,’ Kerri-Ann said immediately.

Everyone turned to look at her.

She blushed.

Will had forgotten she was a marine biologist. ‘Please explain.’

‘Dugongs feed on seagrass in shallow waters. They are threatened by the loss or degradation of their sea grass habitat due to development or industrial activities which cause water pollution. It would seem to me the proposal would pose a real threat to them. Conservation of their marine habitat is very important.’

‘Give the lady another glass of champagne!’ Will yelled, and even Hannah joined in the applause which broke out at the table causing other diners to gaze at them in surprise.

‘Brilliant!’ Owen said. ‘This should do it, Dad.’

‘I expect so. We need to take it to the committee, put together a paper for them. But you’re right. Thanks, Kerri-Ann.’ Will beamed at her.

‘I’m happy to have been of some help. I can help with writing the paper, too, if you want. It’s something I’ve done before.’

‘Thanks, that would be great. Now let’s enjoy our meal. It would be a shame to let such lovely food go to waste.’

They all laughed and began to eat.

By the time their meals were finished, Hannah appeared to have thawed and was taking part in the conversation.


‘Tonight went well.’ Cleo wound her arms around Will’s neck when they were finally alone. A wordless communication outside the restaurant had resulted in him following her home. ‘Did you notice how Han was even chatting to Kerri-Ann before we left? I’m beginning to hope things will work out between them. While they may never become really close, at least they’ve found some common ground. Dugongs… who’d have thought they would be the means of bringing them together?’

‘I hope they’re going to do a lot more than that. Kerri-Ann is keen to see them for herself, so I’ve promised to have a word with Ted’s son, Aaron – the one who works with the guy who owns the yacht. See if he’s willing to go out again, take Kerri-Ann and me – you, too, if you can get away.’

‘Probably not. It’s a nice thought, but the food and wine festival is only a week away.’ Cleo thought of all the preparations which were still to be done. While she was looking forward to the event which should prove to be a great money-spinner for the café and the garden centre, it was proving to be a lot of work. She and Bev had been flat out making lists, selling tickets, arranging tables, and things wouldn’t slow down till it was over.

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