Along Country Roads by Mandy Magro
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Can love ever be enough to heal two damaged souls?
On the run from her troubled past in a stolen four-wheel drive, Matilda Denver seeks the sanctuary of sleepy Moonstone Valley where she hopes to heal and make a fresh start. But her plans go awry when the vehicle breaks down and she’s stranded at the side of a deserted country road.
Ryan Hunter, after working himself into the ground at his interstate truck-driving job since his sister’s death, is making his last run before a well-earned month off. On the last stretch home, he happens across a beautiful woman and scraggy dog hitchhiking. It’s not long before he connects Matilda’s bruises to her past and what she’s on the run from. He instinctively wants to protect Matilda and offers her a place to stay at his property, Heartsong.
Although both battling their own demons, they start to discover how much they have in common – and soon they’re also battling the strong desire to fall hard for each other. But when Ryan tries to help by organising for the four-wheel drive to be fixed, he unwittingly gives away Matilda’s location and now her life may be on the line. Can Ryan find her before it’s too late?
Excerpt from Along Country Roads by Mandy Magro
What the hell have I done?
Matilda Denver looked down at the tiny splatters of blood on her shirt as she tried to shake the terrifying images from her mind. She needed to get rid of anything that could trace her for she knew, if he were still alive, he’d be out to kill her. Checking there was no one in sight she tossed her mobile phone out the window of the four-wheel drive. Watching it fall as if in slow motion, she breathed a small sigh of relief when it dropped into the river beneath the Gunnado Bridge. Driving over that famous landmark, she was now heading into much greener pastures and leaving the forty-five degree heat, the indomitable flies that clung to her lashes, the dusty dirt roads of the five thousand square kilometre Shadow Creek Station, and most importantly of all, a vicious abusive boyfriend behind her.
Although she had loved aspects of being camp cook for the staff of twelve men— cooking and food were her absolute passion—she certainly wasn’t sorry to see the back of it. The heartlands of Central Australia were not a place for the lighthearted. It was dry, dusty, often dangerous and extremely isolated. The stark red and orange of the barren land and the jaw-droppingly beautiful sunsets, along with the promise of a new job and a new start by her boyfriend Troy, may have been what lured her there from her hometown of Longreach in the first place. But his ever-worsening short-temper had turned her life into a living hell. Her mum had warned her not to go, begged her even, but she’d gone anyway, hopeful it would improve her relationship with Troy. Hindsight was an absolute bitch. She should have listened, but Troy’s promise that a change of scenery would make all the difference to his behaviour had lured her into a false sense of security. Within a few months it had only gone from bad to worse, and like most women suffering by the hand of domestic violence, she blamed it all on herself and hung around, believing his every apology, believing every time he said he’d never do it again, for three long, heartbreaking years.
With the 3pm ABC news report starting she turned the radio up for what felt like the hundredth time that day then tucked her flyaway tresses behind her ears with shaky hands. She held her breath as she listened to the newsreader’s distinctive voice, gulping in a lungful of air when nothing was mentioned about her situation. So far, so good—maybe she was right in trusting she hadn’t accidently killed him. Even though she despised the man, she didn’t wish death upon him, especially by her own hands. The thought sickened her to the very core—she was a far cry from a murderer. But there was nothing she could do now to change what had happened. Her mother’s favourite saying was ‘Don’t look back, you’re not going that way’ and she was trying to follow that advice now. If only she could pretend the last three years hadn’t happened. If only she’d had enough courage to leave way back when. If only her mum hadn’t got cancer. Too many if onlys …
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