‘I hope you’re right,’ she said, chewing anxiously at the side of her thumb. ‘It’s hard to tell with Kevin,’ she went on in a burst of confidence, even though part of her was marvelling that she was actually talking to Guy—Guy, of all people!—like this.
It must be something about being shut up together in the front seat of the truck, she decided. The cab made for an oddly intimate environment, especially when you were driving across the outback and there was nothing to distract you and no one else around for miles and miles and miles. There wasn’t much else to do but talk.
‘I just don’t know what he feels about me.’ She sighed.
‘It’s hard to tell with someone like Kevin, I agree,’ said Guy. ‘Not like you.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You’re obviously not a believer in keeping your feelings to yourself,’ he said with a touch of irony. ‘It’s not very British of you, but I kind of like it.’
Lucy flushed. ‘I’m in love with Kevin,’ she said, and her glance held more than a hint of defiance. ‘Why should I try and deny it?’
‘No reason,’ said Guy mildly.
‘My sister thinks you ought to keep everything bottled up inside,’ she went on, a little deflated by his lack of response. ‘But if you love someone, why not say it? Why should you be ashamed of your feelings?’
‘You shouldn’t,’ he said, ‘but sometimes it’s worth keeping them to yourself until you’re absolutely sure that is how you feel.’
‘You sound like Meredith.’ Lucy hunched a shoulder. ‘I am sure how I feel about Kevin. Why shouldn’t I be?’
Guy shrugged. ‘You don’t need to justify yourself to me,’ he pointed out. ‘Kevin seems a nice enough bloke, even if he hasn’t got much to say for himself. I just wonder how much fun you’ll have with him. I mean, what do you talk about when you’re together?’
Lucy didn’t want to admit that she was rarely alone with Kevin. The Wirrindago homestead might be isolated in the middle of a million acres but there was surprisingly little privacy. The stockmen worked together, ate in the homestead together and then retired to their communal quarters. It was hard to find an opportunity to slip off on your own, or rather with someone else, but if anything, that had only made Lucy yearn for Kevin even more.
She had fallen in love with him on her first evening at Wirrindago. He had walked on to the veranda, a dream come true in his checked shirt and boots and rugged male attraction, and Lucy had been lost. He was perfect, her dream of living forever in the outback with him was perfect, and she didn’t want Guy Dangerfield casting doubt on it.
‘When you’re really in love, nothing else matters,’ she said loftily. ‘It’s not about making conversation. It’s about being together and loving each other.’
‘If you say so,’ said Guy, clearly unconvinced. ‘It can be a lonely life in the outback, though.’
‘Not if I’m with Kevin.’ Lucy was uncomfortably aware that she was making her relationship with Kevin seem rather more established than it was, but it was a point of principle more than anything else. ‘You dreamed about being a rodeo rider,’ she said. ‘Well, this is my dream.’
She shook back her hair defiantly, and Guy sent her a sideways glance.
‘I grew out of that particular fantasy,’ he pointed out. ‘About…oooh…eighteen years ago.’
‘And have you never had a fantasy since?’
As soon as the words were out, Lucy wished that she had phrased it differently. She saw the corner of Guy’s mouth twitch, and she felt a flush creeping up her cheeks at the unwitting suggestiveness of her question. ‘You know what I mean,’ she snapped. ‘A dream. You’re not going to tell me that you don’t dream any more, are you?’
Lucy half turned in her seat, suddenly curious. Guy might give the impression of being very open and friendly, but behind that lazily good-humoured expression it was hard to know what he really felt about anything. ‘So what do you dream about now, if it’s not rodeo riding?’ she asked.
Guy’s smile gleamed. ‘I don’t think I know you well enough to tell you that, Lucy,’ he said. ‘I’m with your sister on that one, I have to admit. Some fantasies are best kept to oneself!’
Lucy gripped her tongue between her teeth as she smeared chocolate icing over the top of the cake. Ostensibly it was for afternoon smoko, but really she had made it for Kevin. Chocolate cake was his favourite, so she made it as often as she could.
She was feeling very happy today. Kevin had actually said that he had missed her at the party after the rodeo, and Lucy hugged the memory of his laconic comment to her as if it had been the most passionate declaration of love. A man like Kevin wasn’t going to rush into anything, she reminded herself frequently, so admitting that he had missed her was a big step.
It was a start, anyway.
Even better, Guy Dangerfield was leaving at last. His mother was having a double hip replacement, he had explained, and he needed to fly back to London the next day so that he could be around to help her after the operation.
Lucy would be relieved to see him go. It wasn’t that he had been about the place that much. If anything, she had seen less of him since that drive back from the rodeo, but she had been uncomfortably aware of him at meals, when his smile kept snagging at the edge of her vision, and his voice with its undercurrent of laughter was somehow impossible to ignore, even if he was talking at the other end of the table.
She wished she hadn’t told him quite so much about herself, although Guy had never mentioned their conversation again. At odd times, Lucy would find herself thinking about how he had looked on that drive, and remembering things that she hadn’t even been aware of noticing at the time.
Like his hands, strong and square on the steering wheel, or the line of his jaw. Like the texture of his skin, his throat brown above the white collar. Like the curl of his mouth and the gleam of his smile.
And then she would remember how easily he had swung on to that horse and a strange feeling would uncurl in the pit of her stomach.
It all made her feel very unsettled. Lucy tried reminding herself how irritating he had been, and the annoying way he would insist on calling her Cinderella, and she told herself she was glad that he didn’t come into the kitchen to chat any more, but she couldn’t help feeling just a little piqued when he just waved a greeting on his way past and left her alone.
Wondering why she should care at all just made her more unsettled. It was a very good thing that Guy was going, she decided as she put the finishing touches to the cake. Tomorrow she would be able to relax at last, without the constant distraction of Guy’s presence, and maybe there would be a chance to spend more time with Kevin.
Not that there was any time to spend on building a quality relationship at the moment. Hal’s sister had brought her children, Emma and Mickey, to stay before flying out to join her husband on a two-month business tour, and they were having a hard time adjusting.
Lucy felt sorry for them. She knew what it was like to be homesick, having been sent to boarding school at seven, but she had had her big sister, Meredith, to look after her. Emma, at nine, didn’t seem nearly as practical as Meredith, or as devoted to looking after her younger brother, so Lucy was doing her best to keep them entertained in between making sure there were meals on the table three times a day.
Right now, the two of them were on the front veranda, playing some computer game, but she would go and suggest they play a game of cards or something as soon as she had cleared up the kitchen.
Brushing cocoa from her jeans, she glanced at the kitchen clock. Hal should be back soon. He had driven into Whyman’s Creek earlier that morning and she had given him a whole list of ingredients to pick up from the store.