Elsa has just treated Jack to one of her special shaves …
‘There,’ she said, adjusting the chair upright and unfastening the cloak. ‘You’re all done.’
Jack felt his jaw, surprised by its smoothness. He regarded the mirror and half-snorted at the man staring back at him. He looked tidy. Almost decent.
‘Like I said, a better version of you.’
‘Not so sure about that.’ He lifted himself up and rubbed his jaw again. Smooth as a baby’s bum. Amazing.
‘So,’ said Elsa, walking towards the counter with her yellow dress swinging, ‘did you enjoy it?’
He did. A lot. Too much.
‘Good.’ She walked backwards for a moment, dazzling a smile at him, before whirling around again.
Christ on a bicycle, it was like being hit by a lighthouse beam.
Instead of stopping at the counter, she headed for the shop front. Jack halted, wallet ready in his hand, and stared at her but Elsa opened the door and tilted her head.
He glanced at the till and back at Elsa. ‘How much?’
Jack tapped his wallet against his fist, and stared again at the till, unsure what to make of this development.
‘Jack, you left a hundred dollars on the counter last time. Enough to cover four haircuts. I owe you.’
‘I used your equipment, left a mess. You don’t owe me anything.’
‘Even taking that into account it was too much.’
He shook his head. Leaving without paying didn’t seem right. He opened his wallet, determined to give her something.
‘Don’t.’ Suddenly she was there, her hand curling over his. ‘I mean it.’
‘Next time then.’
Her voice was as teasing as her smile, her hand warm and soft on his. ‘Just as long as there is a next time.’
Jack opened his mouth to tell her ‘sure,’ when an elderly man bustled in.
His wrinkly mouth sank inward as he looked Jack up and down, then his gaze narrowed as he noticed Elsa’s hand on Jack’s. Jack knew that look. The disapproval. The I-bet-you’re-just-like-your-father suspicion.
‘All good there, young Elsa?’
Jack stepped aside, breaking Elsa’s touch, and shoved his wallet in his back pocket, all good feeling evaporated. Christ, he hated Wirralong.
Elsa frowned. ‘I’m fine, Al. Why wouldn’t I be?’
Jack didn’t stick around to hear the answer. He knew exactly what it’d be.
Because Jack Hargreaves is bad news.
Outback Brides and Places to Hide
With some books it’s easy to remember the ‘kapow’ moment when the idea first hit. Others are more like gathering clouds that come together and break apart as the wind changes, until either a stormfront forms or the story proves too weak and is blown away entirely.
I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember how I came up with Elsa’s Stand and I honestly can’t. I do recall my delight at being asked by the lovely folk at Tule Publishing if I’d like to be part of a rural romance continuity. How could I say no to working with authors of Kelly Hunter’s, Fiona McArthur’s and Victoria Purman’s talent?
I’d never been involved in a continuity before…