Chapter Four

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The outback smelt funny.

Not a bad kind of funny, just a different kind of funny.

After Felix had landed the plane with precision smoothness he’d taxied it over to a shed, similar in size to the one at the airstrip near Darwin, turned off the engine, and climbed out of his seat. Unable to release herself from the complicated push-lift-pull mechanism of the safety belt, Mac had waited patiently while Felix opened the shed doors and drove out in another huge white, albeit much newer, four-wheel-drive truck, before she’d asked for help. On being freed from her seat, she clambered gratefully out of the muggy confines and took in her surroundings while Felix busied himself with a bundle of maps and papers.

Standing with her hands on her hips, on the dusty orange dirt ground beside the plane, she took several deep, exaggerated in-breaths. Documentaries of wild and foreign lands never gave you this, Mac reflected. Off in the distance, the sight of the bright green sanctuary that was the gardens surrounding the homestead, and the feel of searing heat against her bare arms from the midday sun were extraordinary in themselves, but added to the scent of the air around her, the likes of which she’d never smelt before, the place was intoxicating.

“Mac!” Felix’s voice snapped, breaking the spell. Propping open the rear door of the plane with one hand and dragging one of the cool boxes toward the opening with his other, he gestured for Mac to come and assist.

“Sorry, it’s just so...” she wafted her hand in the air.

“Desolate?” He questioned.

“Not at all! It’s beautiful... actually it’s more than that. It’s like being in a living breathing painting,” Mac stepped up to the door and lifted the other end of the box. Following Felix’s lead she walked with him over to the truck where they heaved the first cooler up onto the tray.

Other than a raised eyebrow he didn’t respond.

Repeating the morning’s job, only in reverse, they shifted everything onto the truck and pushed the plane back in the shed and shut the doors. There was no giant padlock this time though, sixty kilometres from the main road it really wasn’t necessary.

“Ready?” Felix lifted up the bottom of his t-shirt and used it to wipe the sweat from his face.

Despite it being shoe-meltingly hot, Mac shivered at the sight of his stomach. Unsurprisingly, considering the manual work that must be involved in managing a million acre property, his torso was covered in a smooth warm tan that highlighted every ripple and dip of a serious set of abdominal muscles. A fuzzy sprinkling of dark blonde hair ran in a straight line directly from his belly button and down under the waist of his jeans, which were held up by a thick, heavy buckled, black leather belt.

“Mac!” He barked again.

“Shit... sorry. Yes, ready,” she rubbed her hands against her face hoping he’d mistake the rise of red in her cheeks for heat and exertion.

Climbing in to the truck next to him, Mac caught a glimpse of Felix’s dimples twitching as he tried to contain a smirk, and so she sat for the short ride up to the homestead with her eyes firmly forward and silently reprimanded herself for such insolent behaviour.

#

It was obvious to Mac, the second she walked in to the cool stone house, that her father had played a large part in choosing the decor. No expense had been spared. What did surprise her though was that although Mac senior had clearly picked out the paint colours, fixtures and furnishings there was a distinct sense of femininity in the home and she highly doubted that it was Felix’s influence.

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