Page 44 of Starlit Skies

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“I’m fine,” she said, struggling to break out of his hold. She slapped him playfully on the arm. “Put me down you big oaf.”

“He’s been like a bear with a sore head,” Daisy said, also stepping in to give Skyler a hug. “When Daniella told him he couldn’t come to the hospital to see you, he wasnothappy.”

Nash stood back and watched the interplay between the three. Dale and Skyler were obviously close. And Daisy had an easy manner with them both. Dale and Daisy had connected after Dale had rescued her from a flooding river, and then he’d fallen head over heels in love. But Daisy was originally fromPerth and had gone home to continue her life at university. Love had won out in the end, however, when Daisy had returned to the area to follow her dream of introducing native bush foods to everyday people. She and Dale were now engaged, and by the looks of them, as happy as two cats who’d got the cream. She was also helping Skylar create a kitchen garden, stocked with all kinds of native foods that she could use in her amazing creations. Daisy and Skylar had become close over the past six months, and it was good to see Skylar had a girlfriend she could rely on. Nash wondered if Skylar had confided in Daisy about her relationship with Craig. He somehow doubted it.

“Sorry, mate, I almost forgot you were there,” Dale said, finally letting his sister go. He came over and shook hands with Nash. “It sounds like you came out of this a little worse for wear.” He glanced at Nash’s face and then down at his bandaged leg. He did a double take when he noticed the scarring on his lower calves, but didn’t comment, so Nash left it alone.

“It’s not as bad as it looks. I was lucky.” And that was the truth. If the SES volunteers hadn’t found them when they did, the infection might’ve been much worse. But at least they’d survived and had lived to tell their tale. “If it wasn’t for your sister here, things might’ve turned out quite different.”

Skylar was in the kitchen, pulling things out of the oven. She looked up and gave him an exasperated stare. “We were running for our lives. We both did things we’re proud of…and not so proud of. But don’t you dare give me all the credit.” She waggled a finger at Nash.

“Mm, that smells good.” Dale wandered closer, his nose in the air.

“It’s our dinner,” Skylar retorted. “And no, there’s not enough for you.”

“Oh.” Dale screwed his face up in a pout

“It’s okay. We were going to have a meal at the pub before we head home,” Daisy said, scowling at Dale.

“But I love Skylar’s homemade damper,” Dale grumbled, licking his lips as he spied the warm bread on the countertop.

“Stop it,” Skylar said. “I’ll be home soon enough. Then, I’ll make you whatever you want.”

“Good.” Dale seemed to sober at that, his handsome features lowering in a frown. “And speaking of coming home…” He took a seat in one of the wing chairs. “…when do you think that’ll happen?” His gaze landed squarely on Nash. “Now that the papp—” Dale stopped himself just in time before he mentioned the media, shooting a glance in Skylar’s direction, but she was concentrating on the food and didn’t seem to have heard him. Daniella still thought it was better if Skylar didn’t know they’d been harassed by the press.

Of course, Skylar’s brother wanted his sister at home. The problem was, Nash had no clear answers. He re-took his seat at the end of the couch. Daisy came over and perched on the arm of Dale’s chair, and he wrapped a casual arm around her waist, smiling up into her face. They were clearly very happy together. Nash suddenly had a longing for that kind of intimacy. To know somebody so well that being together was easy, effortless. It’d be nice to have someone to share his life with. But his job made that hard at times. His last long-term relationship had been over four years ago, back when he’d been working in Brisbane. Tonya had been fun, a free spirit who’d wanted to change the world with her herbal teas and protest marches. But she’d never understood his commitment to his job, or the long hours he had to put in. They’d drifted apart, and Nash had only had a few sporadic, short-lived affairs after that. He was thirty-one years old. He’d never thought time would run out for him to find the right person. But perhaps he needed to start looking a little harder.

Nash glanced up and saw Skylar staring at him.

“Did you hear me?” Dale asked.

“Sorry, what?” Nash had been lost in his contemplations.

“When can Skylar come back to Stormcloud? Now that, you know…”

“Yes, I’d really like to know that, as well,” Skylar said, taking a seat at the other end of the couch.

Talk about putting him on the spot. Three pairs of eyes were trained on him.

“That really depends on how our investigation goes over the next few days.”

“I’m not going to hide out here, forever,” Skylar warned.

“I realize that,” Nash said. Although his heart squeezed tight at the thought he might not be able to keep her eternally safe. “Robinson is throwing everything he has at locating this man called Stan the Man or the chopper pilot. If he can find one of them, then they could lead us to the first gunman.”

“But what happens then? Even if they capture the gunman and his brother, what’s going to stop Sanders sending another hitman after Skylar? And another after that? And yourself?” Dale added, almost as an afterthought.

“If we can pin this first hit on Sanders, then a judge can freeze all his assets. He won’t have access to his money, and then hopefully we’ll become less of a priority as he adjusts to life behind bars with no chance of parole, and no one to do his bidding.”

“Hm.” Dale didn’t sound convinced.

“Well, I’ve made a decision,” Skylar declared into the awkward silence that followed. “I’ll stay with Nash up until Paul’s funeral on Friday. I want to go and pay my respects. After that, I’m going home. Whether you’ve caught Stan or not.” She looked him directly in the eye, daring him to argue.

Which he was definitely going to do. “That’s only three days away. You can’t—”

Skylar held up her hand. “That’s right. But like Dale said, I can’t hide out here forever. And by then your leg should’ve recovered enough so that you can cope on your own.”

Three days. Could Robinson’s team find the men they were looking for in that time? It was asking a lot. But he knew that look on Skylar’s face. She was one determined woman. Paul’s funeral was in Cairns, and it was only right that Skylar wanted to go and pay tribute to the man who’d lost his life in part because of them. He wanted to attend as well, although Robinson had advised against it. But if Skylar was going, so was he.

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