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A WEEK WITH THE BEST MAN

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 

   

 

"What is happiness...?"

For Cormac Wharton happiness is a hot morning. An empty beach. A long wave. And - just quietly - the chance to do good.

For Harper Addison its crisp, clean sheets. Room service. Standing in front of a boardroom filled with suits and knowing she’s in control.

At least that's what they both thought. Until Harper comes home to Blue Moon Bay, set to stop her little sister marrying Cormac's best friend and suddenly everything they ever thought they knew about themselves goes out the window...

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

 

 

 

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EXCERPT

 

Cormac Wharton sat on the curved boot of his classic car, shoes hooked a half-metre apart on the gleaming bumper, elbows resting on knees, as he watched his dog, Novak, sprint off into the small forest to his right; a streak of sleek caramel fur in search of the stick Cormac had thrown. And had been throwing for the past forty-odd minutes while he waited for the visitor to arrive.

The sound of a car belting along Beach Road beyond the high bougainvillea-drenched walls of the Chadwick estate had him sitting up, listening for a slowing engine.

Alas, it was not to be.

So, Cormac waited. And would continue to wait. For he was best man to his best mate, Grayson Chadwick, and this was wedding-related-waiting, so it was his job to help out on such occasions. Not that he wouldn’t have done so under normal circumstances. It came down to friendship. Loyalty. Respect. Balance. Duty. The pillars upon which Cormac believed a person could build a good and honest life.

Harper AddisonMaid of Honour and The Person Cormac Had Been Waiting Forty Long Minutes For—appeared to have other ideas.

With only days to spare until her sister Lola’s big day, Harper had finally deigned to drag herself onto a plane to join them. She hadn’t condescended to actually let anyone know she was even on her way until she’d landed. Then, refusing to wait for someone to pick her up in Melbourne, she’d hired a car instead to meander down the Great Ocean Road to Blue Moon Bay at her leisure.

Lola claimed she didn’t mind not knowing exactly when her sister would arrive. That she understood how busy her sister was. Cormac knew better. He knew all about keeping the family peace.

A crunch of claws heralded Novak’s return as the dog bolted across the bright white gravel driveway, ears flapping, fur gleaming in the summer sun, before coming to a panting halt. Her tongue lolled around the mangled stick as she looked up at him, all liquid eyes filled with adoration and trust. It was a hell of a thing, even from a dog.

“Good girl,” Cormac said, and Novak carefully placed the damp stick into his upturned palm. He gave her silky ear a rub. “Ready?”

Novak’s nose quivered.

“Fetch!” he called as with a flick of the wrist he launched the stick. It whistled winningly as it soared through the air and into the bush beyond. And then Novak was gone, a rocket of joy bounding off into the shrubs.

When Cormac looked back to the driveway it was to see an unfamiliar car pulling through the gates.

“Here we go,” he murmured as with hands flat to the warmed metal he launched himself to the ground. There he twisted at the waist and stretched his arms over his head, before running his slobber-covered hands down the sides of his jeans.

Not a hire car, he saw as it rounded past him. A long black Town Car, the kind that came with a driver and windows so dark he could not see inside. For the hour-and-a-half drive from Melbourne it was a little too much. Even for Blue Moon Bay, which was not short on folk with more money than sense.

So, what did that make Harper Addison?

Cormac tried to call up a mental image of what she’d looked like in high school.

A year or two below him, wasn’t she the one who had hung around the bottom of the D-Block staircase, tin in hand, collecting coins for whatever down-on-their-luck soul had appeared in the news that week? He saw unruly brunette curls, ripped jeans, smart mouth and a frown.

Lola Addison, on the other hand, was a sweetheart; bright, happy-go-lucky, with an easy irreverence. His hazy recollection of Harper felt about as far from Lola as one could get.

The Town Car pulled to a halt at the bottom of the wide stone stairs leading up to the house. A moment later a silver-haired driver in a peaked hat and black suit alighted from the car and shuffled to the back door before opening it with a flourish.

Then, like something out of a classic Hollywood flick, a woman’s shoe—the colour of champagne with a heel like an ice pick—uncurled from inside the car to stab the graveled ground.

The second shoe dropped, followed by a pair of long legs.

The woman attached to the legs came last, a hand tipped with shiny black fingernails curving over the top of the door as she disregarded the outstretched hand of the driver and pulled herself to standing, slammed the door shut and stared up at the Chadwicks' house.

Not an unruly brunette, Cormac noted as sunlight flowed over sleek, caramel-blonde waves, kicking out sparks of bronze, of gold. And no ripped jeans either, but a long, fitted, expensive-looking coat—far too much for a southern summer’s day—embroidered with the same champagne colour as those killer heels.

Clearly not the bolshie rebel he thought he’d remembered. Unsurprising. For him, those later high-school years were pretty much a blur.

The driver moved in to ask her a question right as a mobile-phone tone sounded loudly in the restive silence. She stayed the driver with a hand as she answered the call with a clear, “Yes?”

Was she for real? Cormac coughed out a laugh. Then ran a hand up the back of his head as he counted down the hours until the wedding. The hours he’d have to make nice with his counterpart in the lead-up. When he could have been working. Surfing. Staring into space. Any of which would be a better use of his time.

Friendship, he reminded himself. Loyalty. Respect. Balance. Duty.

The driver glanced Cormac’s way, his face working as if unsure what his next move ought to be. Cormac lifted his hand in a wave and half jogged towards the car to take the passenger off the poor guy’s hands.

As if she’d heard his footsteps encroaching, the woman turned.

Cormac’s pace slowed as if his batteries had drained, till he came to a complete stop.

For the woman was a fifties femme fatale brought to life. A swathe of shining hair curled over her right eye. Shadows slashed under high cheekbones. Full nude lips sat slightly apart, as if preparing to blow a kiss.

Cormac found himself engulfed in an instant thwack of heat. Like a donkey kick to the gut, it literally knocked the breath right out of him.

Then she flicked her hair from her face with a single, sultry shake of her head, said something into her phone before dropping it into a structured bag hooked over one elbow, and then both of her eyes met his.

A flash of memory hit like a rogue wave, and he knew he’d remembered her right.

He saw himself bounding down the D-Block staircase with Gray, Adele, Tara and the rest of the school gang at his heels. There she was, the unruly brunette, homemade posters covered in pictures of flood or famine tacked to the post behind her, collection tin in hand, eyes locked on his with that same unrelenting intensity.

A wet snout pressed into Cormac’s hand and he flinched.

Eye contact broken, he glanced down. Novak leaned against his shin, his knee, his thigh, looking at him as if he was the greatest thing on earth.

“That’s my girl,” he murmured, giving Novak a scratch under the chin, before pulling himself the hell together and striding over to meet the woman he’d been waiting for.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

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