Page 5 of Starlit Skies

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“Yes.” What was she getting at? Then it struck him. Skylar was afraid that this excuse for a man was going to come back and try and hurt her. What had he said to her?

“These monsters often act first and think later. They’re so arrogant and full of themselves, they think they’re untouchable. But they’re not. He’ll end up in jail, just like anyone else who’s broken the law. His privilege won’t stop that. You have witnesses to this assault. And if we can get his wife to testify…well, he might be going away for a very long time.”

“I don’t think she will,” Skylar said flatly, her gaze seeking out the wife. “Women like that…who’ve been beaten and coerced, so they don’t even know who they are anymore, it’s hard for them to break free of that overwhelming fear.”

It almost seemed as if Skylar was speaking from experience. But that was crazy. She wasn’t the type of woman who’d put up with domestic abuse. Was she? She was much too strong and ballsy to let any guy dominate her. Look at how she’d marched into that cabin and confronted this dick. She was brave enough to want to help a woman who wouldn’t help herself.

“Whatever he said to you, he’s wrong. If he thought he could keep you quiet by intimidating you, he’s wrong,” Nash repeated the words, hoping Skylar would believe them.

Skylar stared at Nash for many long seconds, her gaze drifting over to the man handcuffed to the table. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” But the conviction behind Skylar’s words was missing.

Nash spent five more minutes getting Skylar’s statement. By the time he’d finished, Sanders’ demands to‘get on with it, because he was an important man with better places to be’were beginning to grate on Nash’s nerves.

He decided to get the rest of the statements from Dale—who’d broken into the cabin and saved Skylar—Steve, and Daniella, later. He could drive back out tomorrow. So, he put the husband in the back of his police four-wheel-drive behind the barricade. Sanders demanded that Patty come with him, and Nash told the wife to follow behind in her car. The woman fixed her gaze on Nash for a second—she was certainly a cool customer, obviously very used to hiding her husband’s abuse behind a façade of controlled composure—then agreed. He felt sorry for her. Sorry that she’d lived with such a brute for so long. Would this be the straw that broke the camel’s back? Would she finally be able to move away from her overbearing husband? As he watched her calmly step into their black Mercedes SUV, he somehow doubted it.

Nash hid a yawn. It was only dinner time, but he’d been up since dawn. This job was tiring. But it was also the most rewarding thing he’d ever done. The position had come up two years ago; the Dimbulah station had been unmanned for three years, but they finally had enough money to reopen it. The job was a promotion and after seven years spent working in a variety of stations in Brisbane, Nash decided he wanted a change.

Moving to the bush had been life changing, in so many ways. The isolation took a lot of getting used to. As did the laid-back lifestyle, and the way the locals were a hell of a lot more independent. He’d got used to driving long distances; everything was far away out here.

He wasn’t lonely. There was always so much to do. So much so, that he hadn’t had a girlfriend since he’d moved out here. Not that there weren’t plenty of women who weren’t eager for him to look their way. But their subtle desperation didn’t entice him. In the back recesses of his brain, he knew he was attractive to women. They always cooed about his beautiful blue eyes and gorgeous blond hair. But he wasn’t one of those guys who played on his looks. He liked to earn everything he was entitled to. And there was no one who’d really caught his eye out here. Except Skylar.

After seeing her a few times in town, having short, polite, and vaguely unsatisfying conversations, he’d been surprised to see her arrive at a local charity ball one night in Mareeba. She’d taken his breath away, dressed in a simple red dress, with her hair down and her eyes dark with eyeliner, she’d left him gasping for air when she looked his way. A lot of the other men were equally affected, too. There was a live band—albeit playing country music—and people waltzing, and so he’d pushed his way through the gaggle of attending men to ask her for a dance. After they’d danced, and with a few beers for courage under his belt, he’d asked her out on a date. Her refusal had taken him by surprise. She’d been courteous and polite, saying that she didn’t have time to date anyone at the moment. Her work kept her too busy. But the rejection stung for a long time afterwards.

He shook his head and turned his concentration back to the road. The sun had set a few hours ago, and this was the time that native wildlife came out to feed at the edges of the road; he needed to keep his wits about him. It was September, andthey were nearing the end of the dry season, so there were fewer cane toads on the roads. Once the rains started again, they’d sometimes be so thick on the ground he’d lose count of how many he ran over with his police car. He checked that the wife was still following behind him, her headlights flickering in his rear-view mirror.

Pushing the button on his police radio, he called the arrest in to the Mareeba Station. Letting them know he’d keep Sanders in Dimbulah lockup for the night, and asking for someone from Cairns to pick the prisoner up in the morning, so he could be arraigned. Senior Sergeant Robinson was in charge at Mareeba, and was technically Nash’s boss. He’d worked with Robinson a few times recently, especially during the case of the Stormcloud murder. He respected Robinson, he was a good cop and a good man. But too overqualified to be running this small section of North Queensland. There were rumors that Robinson would be moving onwards and upwards soon; to oversee the much larger Townsville Station. There were also rumors that Nash might be getting a constable to come and work at the Dimbulah station with him. But he wasn’t holding his breath.

He finished his report and turned off the radio.

The silence was broken by Sanders making a loud grunting noise from behind the barricade in the rear seat.

“These handcuffs are too tight, they’re hurting my wrists,” he growled.

Nash didn’t respond.

“But you don’t give a crap, do you?”

Again, Nash knew better than to engage with the prisoner. He could rant all he liked; he wasn’t going to get a rise out of this senior constable.

“Well, you’d better give a crap,” Sanders snarled. “You say you don’t care who I am, that everyone who commits a crime is treated the same. Well, I know your name. I know who you are.You’d better watch your back, boy, and sleep with one eye open from now on.”

What the hell? Was this doofus actually threatening him? What an idiot. Nash didn’t deign to even flick a glance in the other man’s direction.


“KING IS HERE,” Dale called, as he strode through the kitchen on his way out the back door.

Skylar looked up from where she and Daisy were prepping the salad for lunch. “Oh, right.” Her stomach did a vague somersault, and she immediately felt foolish. She didn’t care if she never saw the senior constable again. She just wished her stomach understood that. Now that she thought about it, he had mentioned he’d be back today to take everybody else’s statements, so she guessed she should’ve been expecting him.

Dale stopped to sweep Daisy up in his arms for a quick kiss. “Hello, gorgeous. Have you become Stormcloud’s newest kitchen helper?” he joked.

“No, just giving Skylar a hand, that’s all.” Daisy shot a beaming smile at her brother.

More like become her self-appointed babysitter, Skylar thought grumpily. Daisy hadn’t left Skylar’s side all morning. Fussing over Skylar, making sure she wasn’t left alone. She and Daisy had become very close over the past six months, she’d almost go as far as saying they were best friends, but this morning Daisy was silently driving Skylar insane.

Skylar liked to process things on her own. She hated it when people fussed over her.

Julie hadn’t been much better, checking in on Skylar more often than usual during the morning. At least Julie would be helping Steve and Dale take the guests out trekking on the horses this afternoon, which’d get her out of Skylar’s hair for awhile. She loved Julie, they got on well, probably better than a lot of stepsisters. Julie was a bit of a joker, liked to be the bright, positive person in the room. She’d certainly lifted up Stormcloud lodge with her presence ever since she’d agreed to come and replace their staff member, Karri, who’d been brutally murdered by Sally Tsun. Most of the time, Skylar enjoyed Julie’s company. Just not today.