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‘That’s a shame.’ Will nibbled on her ear, sending shivers of delight right down to her toes, then moved his lips to her collarbone, one hand running through her hair which she’d worn down again tonight. ‘Mmm, you smell delicious.’

Cleo shuddered as Will’s hands moved down her back, cradling her to him. She wanted to resist, to suggest they move to the bedroom, but his touch was so exciting, her legs grew weak as she inhaled his manly scent. All of her inhibitions fell away, and she was lost in a haze of passion as, tangled together, they fell onto the waiting sofa.

Thirty-six

The weekend of the food and wine festival had arrived, and Cleo was up at the crack of dawn. She’d brushed away all Will’s bids to spend the night together, knowing she’d regret it in the morning.

Even so, she was bleary-eyed as she slid out of bed. Her brain had refused to turn off, and she’d tossed and turned all night trying to remember if she’d thought of everything. A lukewarm shower helped to dispel the last vestiges of sleep, and a cup of strong coffee with breakfast rather than her usual herbal tea provided her with the energy to face the day.

Bev was waiting for her at the café. AlthoughThe Pandanus Caféwas Cleo’s domain, it was part of the garden centre which Bev owned. This morning, Cleo was glad of her help and support.

Together they loaded Bev’s van with the supplies needed for the day. Ruby had promised to deliver her cakes directly to their stall over the weekend and reported she intended to provide even more than usual in the expectation of an increased demand.

‘I hope we haven’t over-catered,’ Bev said, as they loaded the last lot of containers.

‘I doubt it. I read inThe Buglethat this year will see a huge increase in tourists, here for the festival – and the surf carnival next weekend. Will and Martin have done a great job with publicity.’

‘It was a good idea to run a combined campaign. Their fundraising blitz garnered more support for our events.’

‘And we’ll be doing our bit to promote the carnival. It’s a win-win situation.’

‘I’m glad you and Will have got together,’ Bev said, as she pushed the van door closed. ‘He’s a good man who’s been alone for too long, and you both deserve some happiness.’

‘Thanks.’ Cleo was tempted to ask Bev why she’d never married. She was almost ten years older than Cleo, but there was no hint there had ever been a man in her life. Cleo wondered if Ailsa knew. The pair had been friends for a long time, had been at university together before Bev came back to Bellbird Bay. Everyone knew she’d cut her studies short to return to care for her parents, then she’d opened the garden centre and built it up to what it was today. No hint of any relationship. But it wasn’t the sort of thing you could ask someone like Bev.

‘Ready? The girls will manage the café. It shouldn’t be busy here today. Everyone will be at the festival.’

‘Right.’ Cleo brought her mind back to the present. It would never do to let Bev know what she was thinking. She slid into the passenger seat of the van, and they set off.

The esplanade and the nearby section of the beach was a hive of industry when they arrived, the staff of other cafés, restaurants and local providores busy organising their wares. With her staff – and a helping hand from Will and Martin – Cleo had set up the Pandanus stall the day before.

‘It looks great, Cleo,’ Bev said admiringly as they drove by the banner proclaimingThe Pandanus Caféand made their way to the parking lot.

‘It does, doesn’t it?’ Cleo had spent many hours designing and constructing the banner in an attempt to make it eye-catching enough to stand out among all the other stalls, some of which had colourful awnings, while others chose to rely on the quality of their produce. She believed she’d succeeded.

‘Looking good, ladies.’

Cleo glanced up and blushed, seeing Will, dripping from his early morning surf. He must have come straight here from the ocean, wearing only his board shorts. She swallowed, the sight of his naked chest sending shivers down her spine.

‘Will.’ Her voice stuck in her throat.

‘We’re not open for business yet, Will.’ Bev’s voice in her ear reminded her she and Will weren’t alone.

‘Just wanted to see where you were. It all looks wonderful.’ He gestured to the plethora of stalls which now lined the normally empty esplanade and beachfront. ‘Looks like the hordes are about to descend.’ He nodded in the direction of the main road along which groups of people were appearing. ‘I’ll leave you to it. May drop by later on.’ He gave them both a quick peck on the cheek before he left, lingering slightly longer on Cleo’s and whispering, ‘I missed you last night,’ before heading off.

Cleo put her hand up to the cheek his lips had touched. She’d missed him, too. But it had been the right decision, and she’d promised to meet him tonight. They had tickets for a cocktail event at the very hotel they’d been to on the night Ailsa and Martin had set them up – where it had all begun. Cleo wondered where she and Will would have been today without Ailsa’s intervention. Would they have found another way of getting together, or would they both still be living their solitary lives?

There was no time to speculate. Will was right. People were beginning to arrive, the mayor was preparing to speak, the media were in place, cameras flashing. It was time for the food and wine festival to begin.

*

To their delight, Cleo and Bev were kept busy all day, each managing only to take a brief break for lunch before returning to the fray. True to her word, Ruby had delivered her selection of wonderful cakes which had proved popular with customers, as had the bite-sized delicacies which were Cleo’s own creation.

It was close to the end of the day and while the crowds were thinning, there were still lots of people around the pandanus stall, intent on making a purchase before they closed for the day. Cleo was replenishing the pile of brochures about the garden centre and café, which Martin had helped them prepare, when she heard her name being called. The voice wasn’t familiar, but sparked a memory. She turned towards it to see the flame-haired woman who had been pursuing Will. Joy Taylor. Cleo’s heart sank.

‘Cleo Johansen,’ the woman called again, her shrill voice ringing over the chattering crowd which suddenly fell silent, as everyone turned to see where the sound came from.

Cleo froze, as Joy Taylor walked towards her. Bev had already left to ensure all was well at the garden centre. She was alone at the stall. There was no way she could avoid the confrontation which was about to occur.

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