Walking the Line
by Mandy Magro
For how long can secrets stay buried?
Country-loving Dallas Armstrong is a hard-as-nails bull rider, who dreams of becoming Australian champion, just like his father, Mick, was. But when he discovers a shocking secret about his father on the same day Mick dies in a car accident, Dallas’s world is turned upside down. Now it’s up to him to protect his mother from the truth, and to keep the family farm Rollingstone Ridge afloat. And he will do everything in his power to do so.
Charlize Dawson is a successful city journalist whose marriage is in tatters. Begrudgingly sent to the country to write about Dallas, she is surprised to find that he isn’t the arrogant cowboy she’d assumed he’d be. Instead she and Dallas and share an intense chemistry and deep connection that lead to a stolen kiss at the Rodeo Ball.
But when Charlize’s research for her article puts her on the path of uncovering Dallas’s secret, he demands she stop or lose him forever. Dallas or her career, which should she choose? How can she turn her back on the people who have welcomed her into their lives with open arms, all in the name of her job? Her career is all she has left, and she has worked so very hard to be where she is. But how can she reveal what she knows, if it means losing the love of her life?
Excerpt from Walking the Line by Mandy Magro
It had all happened so damn fast.
Vivien Hiller stormed off. Then Dallas and his father argued. Ten minutes later, unable to handle the questions, his dad fled the stables. The bonnet of the Commodore slammed shut. The driver’s door closed. And then the engine revved to life and Mick Armstrong stomped on the gas in an almighty fit of rage.
As he recalled the car fishtailing down the driveway, Dallas Armstrong’s heavy heart sank into his well-worn boots. He hung his head in his hands. He’d never seen his father like that before—Mick was usually so calm and collected. But nothing about the last twelve hours made sense. It all just felt like a bad dream—if only it was one he could wake up from.
He tried to swallow down the emotion as he gazed towards his mother, who sat in a traumatised heap on a shabby-looking couch, the pain in her desolate blue eyes tearing at his heart and soul. His aunt Kelly’s arms were wrapped around her trembling shoulders as she sobbed into her ball of tissues. He was grateful for his aunt’s presence—she was always there for them, through the good and the bad, even though her home was a two-hour drive away.
Slumping in his chair, Dallas clasped and unclasped his hands as images of what he’d witnessed flashed through his mind. For all these years, his father had been hiding a shocking secret. Never would he have believed such a thing if he hadn’t heard it with his own ears. Damn Vivien Hiller. He felt completely betrayed. And it made him wonder if he’d ever really known his father at all.
His beautiful mum deserved better. How would he ever find the heart to tell her what he’d overheard at the stables? He could only begin to imagine the pain it would cause her to know the truth. The magnitude of it all sent adrenaline coursing through him but he drew in a deep breath and reminded himself for the hundredth time to keep it together. Still, anger bubbled inside him, mixed with fear, disappointment, anxiousness and despair—so many unwanted emotions.
Meeting his eyes, Aunt Kelly gave him a woeful smile and he silently returned it as he stood, blinking back tears. He needed to walk, to move, to stop thinking. He couldn’t crumble right now. He had to remain strong for his mum. Even with everything they’d been through—the loss of his beautiful gran last year to cancer, the drought, the endless money worries—he’d never seen her so distressed.
Katherine Armstrong had always been a true-to-the-word countrywoman full of grit and determination, and yet generous with her smiles and hugs. She’d taught him that nothing was ever out of your reach if you believed in it enough, and he owed his will to succeed in whatever he put his mind to all to her. Interstate truck driving had stolen her husband away from the family cattle property, Rollingstone Ridge, for much of Dallas’s youth. As unfair as that was, it was just something that had to be done to make ends meet, cattle prices not what they used to be. Nevertheless, she had raised him the best she could, and now he wished there was some way to take her pain away. But there wasn’t. All Dallas could do right now was try to protect her, and protect her with his life he would.
He’d dried her tears, held her tight, and told her over and over that it was all going to be okay—even though he was having trouble believing that himself. Now there was nothing left but to pace the hospital’s unnervingly silent hallway while they waited for the news that might shatter their world.
He wanted to yell, punch something, jump on his Triumph Thunderbird motorbike and ride like there was no tomorrow, but instead he made sure he was out of his mum and aunt’s eyesight before he sunk his boot into the wall, fighting back sobs. He felt so frustrated and helpless—a huge part of his life had been one massive lie.