Page 71 of Starlit Skies

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“Good,” she said. But he must’ve caught the barely-there flicker of unease in her reply.

“You know he can’t get to us now, babe? The courts have frozen all his assets. He couldn’t raise enough money to pay for a coffee, let alone hire another hitman. That was a one-off contract, Robinson has done his homework. We’re safe now.”

“I know,” Skylar replied. And she did know. But she also didn’t trust that man. His hatred and narcissism ran deep. She wouldn’t put it past him to find a way to get to them, even if that might be five years in the future. Thinking about Sanders brought another contemptible human being to mind.

“What about Craig? Will he be sentenced soon, too?” Her hand fluttered up to touch her wrist, but she stopped herself just in time. The counsellor had picked up on that habit of hers the very first time she’d seen him. It was a habit she was trying tobreak. And pressing charges against her rapist was going a long way to helping her do that.

“Yes. Probably next week, as well.” Nash leaned his shoulder against hers. “Not too long to wait now.”

She nodded. It’d been the hardest thing she’d ever had to do, stand up and testify against Craig in that courtroom. The way he’d glared at her had brought back all the old memories and she’d nearly sat down again without uttering a word, falling back into old weaknesses where she bowed to Craig’s control. But one glance at Nash sitting in the front row had given her the courage she needed. Her whole family had been there, backing her up, as well. Daniella and Steve, Dale, Daisy, and Julie, all gave her the thumbs-up from their seats. And afterwards, as she exited the courthouse, before Craig had even been found guilty, she’d felt like a bird taking flight. Oh, the liberty of that weight lifting from her shoulders.

“I know I’ve said it before, but I’m incredibly proud of you, for standing up to him,” Nash said.

“Thank you. And I know I’ve said this before, but if it wasn’t for you, I may never have done it.”

Nash made a disparaging noise. “Not true.” Then when she glared at him, he added, “But I’ll take the compliment, anyway.”

Time for a change in subject, she didn’t want to bring the mood down on this delicious summer day. “It’ll be Christmas in a few weeks.”

“Don’t remind me,” Nash groaned. “My mum wants me to fly down to Brisbane to spend time with her and my sisters.”

Skylar patted his knee. Nash had already mentioned his dilemma, and she knew he still hadn’t made up his mind about going to see them. But she’d been forming a plan over the past few weeks.

“There might be an alternative,” she said with a mischievous grin.

He narrowed his sky-blue eyes, and she nearly got so lost in them she almost forgot what she’d been going to say.

“We always have a celebration at Stormcloud. All of our family, any of the staff who want to stay, and we make a whole day of it. Dale and Daisy will be there, and Daisy’s inviting her brother and parents to join us. We have croissants and champagne for brunch, then a swim in the billabong. Then we play board games and open presents, or we might even drive up to the escarpment, before we finish the day off with a huge meal. I spend days in the kitchen preparing beforehand.”

“I bet you do. And I bet it’s bloody delicious,” he said, leaning in to kiss her neck.

“It is. But that’s not the point. There’s plenty of room for you, and your whole family, if you want to invite them. They can all stay at the lodge, if they like.” Skylar had met Nash’s sister, Ashley, when she’d flown up to see him the first time he’d been in hospital after they’d been rescued from the jungle. Ashley had been delightful, and Skylar thought she’d probably get along well with her. But she was yet to meet Nash’s mother, and the idea made her insides tremble. What would his mother think of her? And more to the point, how would Daniella get on with the other woman? Now,thatmade her insides tremble even more. But she was a grown woman; she could deal with a mother-in-law, if she had to.

“Really?” Nash’s face lit up at the idea.

“Only if you want to,” she added hurriedly. Too late to change her mind now.

“Thank you. That’s not a bad idea. It means I get to spend Christmas with you,” he said, taking her hand and rubbing his thumb over her knuckles.

“Our first Christmas together,” she mumbled. It was a big step for her, inviting him into her life like this. Sometimes she still caught herself worrying that she was doing the right thing.He’d start a conversation about doing something together in the future, and her stomach would clench involuntarily. But he was worth it. He was worth giving up her self-imposed independence for. It was nice letting a man take care of her again. Look after her and pander to her needs. Especially her needs in the bedroom. Because she couldn’t get enough of Nash. Enough of that hardened male body wrapped around her; inside her.

A familiar heat settled between her legs at the mere thought of him. If that other couple weren’t still below them at the waterfall, Skylar may well think about pushing him down onto the rocks and having her way with him right here. There’d be enough time for that later tonight, cocooned in their little tent. All night long, if she wanted it.

But she had more she wanted to say to him.

“Stormcloud Lodge closes for six weeks over January and February. That’s the wettest part of the year and guest numbers are low. Plus, it gives us a chance to rest and recuperate, get some of the maintenance on the station done.”

“I think I knew that,” Nash responded. “It’s a good idea, the roads are almost impassable at that time. Makes my job harder, too.”

Skylar pursed her lips. The whole of the top end of North Queensland often looked more like an inland lake than anything else during the wet. Not a lot got done during that time, and some homesteads became completely cut off for weeks or even months. Sometimes the only way to get around was to fly, which was why the helicopters were a godsend for Stormcloud. But that was what made her next idea all the more appealing.

“Maybe we could take a longer holiday, then. Take a week and fly down to the Whitsunday Islands. I hear they have a great resort we could check out. It’s very private, with amazing food. What do you think?”

“You’d take a whole week off?” He covered his mouth in a mock imitation of shock.

“Don’t be a fool,” she slapped him lightly on the shoulder. “My family can manage without me for a week.”

“Well, in that case, let me get onto Robinson and see if I can book some holidays,” he said, brow wrinkling delightfully as he mused. “I’ll probably only get a day or two over Christmas, that’s when all the crazy stuff happens. You’d think people would stay at home and enjoy Christmas with their families, but it’s actually one of our busiest times. But I think Robinson owes me at least a week in February, after all we’ve been through.”