Ever Since April: Part 3 of 5

april 3d
R-Rated 18+ Amazon Paperback

Chapter 12

Jason lay staring at the ceiling. This was another man’s house. He would be moving back to the B&B tomorrow. He was the one in the wrong here, taking advantage of April—her vulnerability.

That’s not good enough!

He had a job to do. He should have been doing it that evening and checking out the old van.

He was essentially angry with himself, but still the taste of April’s lips filled his mind as sleep overpowered him. During the night he woke several times to the sound of rain lashing the window. The morning was heavily overcast and grey, squalls of lighter rain sweeping over the house intermittently.

April had on old faded jeans and a loose fitting sweater. She still looked damn good. Jason reprimanded himself for the tenth time since she got up and came into the kitchen smiling but refusing to look at him for the most part.

“I think I should move back to the B&B,” Jason said, sipping the coffee April had topped up for him.

She nodded. “Probably a good idea. I think I might be moving out before long myself, but that’s got nothing to do with…” She ended that announcement with an awkward shrug. “This was Eric’s house before we got together.”

“So, it’s that bad between you guys?” It was none of Jason’s business. Worse—he shouldn’t have been interfering.

“We just don’t have anything in common anymore. We are at completely different stages in our lives… We were just talking about it on the phone this morning. He feels the same way. He wants to start travelling more—seeing the world. It’s perfectly reasonable, but I want something different.”

That made good sense. April, in her faded jeans, was suddenly the girl next door again. Jason’s romantic notions about her were replaced, seeing her simply as a friend. “I know what you mean. This is a weird age. I’ve been feeling on edge about something for a couple of years and haven’t been able to work out what it is. It’s like the last chance is here. In ten years’ time I’m going to be staring down the barrel at fifty, and it’s out to pasture from there.”

April laughed. “Oh, it is not!”

“But you start going grey. You get a seniors card.”

“But that’s ages away. We’re only mid-thirties… And fifty is not old.”

“It’s too old for what I have in mind.”

“Which is?”

“Nothing,” Jason lied. It wouldn’t be appropriate to say he had children of his own in mind. He wanted to say that. He had hinted at it because he wanted April to know. She had almost hinted as much herself, hadn’t she?

She was blushing. She had always been quick to pick up on things. He met her eyes and confessed with a blush of his own.

“It’s no big deal or anything. I just wouldn’t mind one I could keep—maybe share my name with.”

She nodded acknowledgment. “That makes sense.”

He huffed. “But whinging about getting older isn’t doing anything to help clear Granddad’s name, is it? I think we should brave the rain and go check out this old van.”

“I agree. But Brent just called and said he can take us to the grave site this morning—except, I don’t want to go. I was close enough the other day at the sports carnival, and that was plenty creepy.”

“Oh okay—that’s fine. Did he say what time?”

“Now. He’s coming right over.” A car pulled into the driveway as April spoke. “That will be him.”

“Okay—back soon,” Jason said, rinsing his coffee cup.

April sent him off with a cute little four-finger wave he remembered from school. He held her gaze, looking back over his shoulder from the kitchen door. He just wanted to grab her and kiss her. He tore himself away and met Brent at the front door.

“Do you have a rain coat?” the young cop asked. “You’ll need one.”

Jason had a slicker in the Land Cruiser. He got wet getting it and pulling it on. Brent was in a police 4WD. A lightning bolt and clap of thunder struck almost simultaneously as Jason jumped into the passenger seat and slammed the door.

“Shit!”

Brent chuckled. “Close, huh?”

They crawled along the street—water gushing across and filling the gutters, Brent hunched over the steering wheel trying to see through the windscreen—the wipers on full speed but unable to keep up with the teaming rain.

They pulled into the car park of the soccer field, quite close to the sectioned-off grave site. Brent turned off the motor. “Give this a minute until it settles down?”

“Yeah, it’s lightening up now.” Jason had gotten to know the young policeman a little playing pool the previous night. He was a shy type but seemed like a good guy. “So, when are you going to ask Mandy, dude? Better hurry up before she asks you.”

Brent grinned. “I know… I’ve been saving for the ring.”

“Yeah? That’s great… You guys look good together.”

“Thanks. So do you and April… You used to go to school here together, Mandy was saying.”

“I used to live in the green house over there. Not for long, though. My old man got transferred back to Melbourne soon after April moved in—which sucked. Just got my hands on her and got taken away…”

“Unlucky! But a second chance, huh?”

“I don’t know, man. She’s married… Probably should respect that and keep my distance.”

“Yeah, probably,” the younger man agreed with a shrug. “Good luck with that.”

“With what?”

“Keeping your distance. Keeping any sort of control over April… Good luck with that, man. You’ve got less chance than I have.”

Jason laughed. “Yeah, I guess…”

Brent moved the conversation on. “So, this was all scrub twenty years ago, was it?”

“Yeah, we used to cut through here and cross the creek to get to the pool.” Jason motioned from the back gate of the school to the tree line of the creek in the distance. The Everly Cove Public Baths were on the far side of the creek, the seating stand visible through the trees.

“So, this car park wasn’t here… Do you remember what this area between the grave site and the road looked like? I can’t remember. I was pretty young when we moved away too.”

“There was a dirt track for cars through some scrub and prickly bushes. There were no tall trees. It was thick bush, though. We used to ride bikes down to the creek and along the bank on this side. It looks completely different with this field here. It’s amazing how they’ve cleaned it up.”

The rain eased to a drizzle. The two men approached the grave site, slipping under the chequered tape and braving the muddy ground around the excavated hole between the new and old amenities buildings. The hole had been dug longer and broader but was the shape of a grave and about waist depth. It was flooded with about six inches of water.

“It’s freaky to think of the poor girl lying dead here so close to the school and houses,” Jason commented. “Just lying here all these years with the world going on all around.”

“She was wearing a ring,” Brent said.

Jason looked at him.

“Like, a friendship ring—on her right ring finger. It was engraved—probably from some guy…”

Jason nodded. “Yeah, what a waste, eh? Her whole life stolen…” He looked around. “This isn’t very far from the car track that used to be here—just the other side of the old toilets there. Our walking track was further over. There was a sort of clearing around here, though… Whoever did this would have been able to drive in and be out of sight of the road easily enough.”

“She was lying on her back. Her head was here.” Brent said, indicating the end of the grave where they were standing.

“And not very deep, eh?”

“A couple of feet….”

Jason looked around again. “I’m going for a stroll.”

He traversed the perimeter fence of the soccer field and headed into the scrub beyond, where he found a walking track in the same place he remembered from his school years. It seemed kids still went this way to get to the pool. There was a small timber slatted bridge over the creek. Underneath lay the wreck of a car, rusted and adorned with graffiti. The creek was a series of ponds with a strong current of water winding through. It had always been perennial—the stormy morning responsible for the flow.

Jason was fifteen again as he stood on the bridge watching the swirling water. From there, town looked the same as it had back when his world was simple—when the biggest worry he had was whether or not he could get another kiss from April.

So, what’s changed?

He returned to find Brent fixing the chequered tape around the grave site and adding a new strand. “We all good?”

“Yeah. It looks the same down at the creek. Hasn’t changed at all… This spot would have been quite secluded from the walking trail too, with all this scrub.”

The rain started up again. They hurried to the police vehicle, and Brent dropped Jason off with a wave and promise to catch up for another beer and game of pool sometime soon.

April was in the kitchen washing dishes. Jason nearly cuddled her from behind but stopped short, just touching her hips and peering over her shoulder. “I need more coffee.”

“You’re drenched.”

“I know. It’s pouring down out there.”

“Alright—give me a minute.” April left him and came back from the laundry shortly after in a cute little raincoat with a hood.

Jason gave her a smile. “What kind of sleuth wears a red raincoat?”

“This kind, Sherlock.” She took his cup after he guzzled the last of his coffee down. “Come on, then,” she said, pushing him out of the kitchen.

They hurried to the Land Cruiser parked in the driveway, the rain still pelting down. It was only a short drive around to Granddad’s house. That particular downpour let up slightly. They had both worn leather hiking boots, which helped with the mud puddles everywhere.

“It’s a mess, isn’t it?” April commented about the end of the yard.

The concrete swimming pool they had played in as kids was a foot deep in mud and slush with tree branches and a big spool of rusty wire netting. There was a single timber garage with a dead tree leaning on the roof. The double doors in front were padlocked, a small wooden door at the back wedged open with a 44 gallon oil drum full of twisted star-posts. Jason peered through a grimy, cracked window to see Granddad’s old station wagon parked in the garage. It was covered in bird droppings and caked in a thick layer of dust. Twenty years ago there had been a mown section of lawn around the swimming pool. That had grown wild with dry stems of grass and weeds a metre tall lying over, soaked in the rain of the day. The little old round-topped caravan was obscured behind a collapsed corrugated iron awning, beneath which a colony of spiders seemed to be quite happily residing.

Jason cleared some of the webbing with a stick so he could get at the caravan. The small press-button handle wouldn’t budge, so he used the crowbar he had brought with him and wedged it in to jimmy the door open. It creaked and popped, squealing as it swung back on rusted hinges.

The air inside the dark little metal box was cool and heavy with the musty waft of the years. Jason climbed in. April gripped the sleeve of his slicker and stepped up into the van beside him. She covered her nose with her arm. “Yuck!”

There was an enamel plate in the sink with the petrified remains of a meal stuck to it. It looked like beans and sausages. There was a shrivelled grey rubbery substance that could have once been a fried egg.

The interior of the van consisted of a tiny sink and bench top, a single bunk bed, a fold-away table and a single wooden chair, a small closet with the door seemingly missing completely, and about enough vacant floor space for one person to move around comfortably or for two people to squeeze past one another. Upon the bench were a gas burner and an old fold-down toaster with a cooling rack on top. There were clothes hanging in the closet: two white shirts, a brown sports coat and a pair of grey woollen trousers, and a leather bag with white underwear folded neatly. There was a pair of black leather shoes beside the bed and another pair of long pants next to them on the floor.

April was looking in a cupboard under the sink. Jason picked up the trousers and found coins in one of the side pockets, a single key on a piece of string in the other, and a wallet in the back pocket. He opened the wallet to find a folded page that was a printed driver’s licence for Clive Petrov, dated to expire January, 1989. There were several notes of old paper currency totalling nine dollars. There were more folded pieces of paper in a clipped compartment, along with a silver chain and tiny crucifix.

“Is this him?” April asked. She had a page from a newspaper. It was a photograph of a group of hippies in front of a sandstone building with the words Vale Court visible on the wall behind them. “Goran Vale,” April said, reading the top corner of the page. “September fifteenth, nineteen sixty-nine.”

“Some sort of protest rally,” Jason added, browsing the news article below the picture. “Yeah, I think that’s him,” he agreed about the figure on the extreme left of the happy looking group. He had long hair and a headband, but no doubt it was the man they had known as The Pastor. “We’d better take that.”

April pulled the grey blanket and white sheet back from the bed to reveal a black stain.

“That looks like blood,” Jason said. “Don’t touch it, okay?”

“Eww! Don’t worry—I won’t be touching it.”

Jason checked the other papers from the wallet. There was a receipt for a motel room rental in Dubbo from 1987 and a grocery shopping list scribbled untidily in pencil.

“There’s his Bible,” April said.

It was under the corner of the mattress. She took it out and opened it where an envelope protruded. There appeared nothing significant about the open page, as far as Jason could see—no hand writing or any kind of markings. April found two photographs of young women in the envelope. She looked to Jason. He shrugged.

“I’ll send them to my boss—see if they turn up anything.”

He leaned over the bed for a closer look at black marks on the wall. “That looks like blood too—splattered blood, in fact.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning someone might have been belted with something here in this bed lots of years ago.” He checked the floor and saw more black marks there, smeared as if the victim of a beating had been dragged to the door. “See there? That’s blood too… I’d say this here is a crime scene, April.”

“Should we tell someone?”

“Yes, we’ll tell Sergeant Harris. He should check it out at least.”

“What about this stuff?” she asked.

“We’ll take copies then hand them over when we tell him. Do you have a photocopier at home?”

April owned an all-in-one printer. They ran to the Cruiser and returned to her house. Jason faxed the photos to Baine, and April printed copies of them and the newspaper. They found the sergeant on duty at the police station.

“Yes, we’ll have a look,” he agreed.

“Will you let me know if you find anything interesting, please?” Jason asked.

“If I can,” the sergeant returned sincerely enough.

They jumped back into the Cruiser, slamming the doors on the rain teaming down again.

“What now, Sherlock?”

“Well, Marcy said not to expect anything about Petrov until this afternoon. I was thinking we should go and see Mrs Mulvane. He used to work for the Mulvanes, so maybe she remembers him.”

“Ooh the widow… She’s scary.”

“Why? You big chicken.”

“But she became all strange and mysterious after her husband was murdered… Hey, maybe The Pastor killed him too.”

Jason drove toward the main street. The gates to the Mulvane mansion were at the base of the southern headland, the far end of town from where they were.

“I thought the story around town was that the widow and her lover killed the husband?”

“Yeah, but that just makes her even more scary. What if she kills us too?”

Jason chuckled, joining in with April. He had heard the legend of the widow Mulvane. Her husband was apparently killed by an intruder in their mansion back in 1986. The case remained open, the last Jason had heard when he was on the force.

“Clair knows her,” April was saying. “Her grandparents used to live in the abandoned house next door, and she used to visit when she was a child. She gets on well with her—visits all the time… Mandy works here housekeeping and minding the daughter, who’s been locked up for years and never leaves the house.”

“Well, how scary can an old lady and her daughter be? Though these gates are scary enough. We used to dare each other to come up here and press the intercom when we were kids?”

“No way I’d come up here,” April declared. “No frigging way!”

Jason pressed the button and held it in to talk. “Hello! Mrs Mulvane, please?”

A soft voice replied immediately. “Yes?” The audio was crackly.

“Jason Ford from Baine Investigations of Melbourne—may I speak with you for a moment, ma’am?”

There was a short period of silence then a loud clunk and the big wrought iron, spike-topped gates swung slowly back.

“Okay—that was easy,” April muttered, peering at the huge sandstone house as they rolled up the driveway. The rain still poured steadily. Mrs Mulvane stood waiting on her veranda with her arms folded against the cold. She was a woman of fifty or so with long dark hair greying a little.

Jason and April hurried up the steps to the shelter of the veranda awning. It was a broad timber deck with a cushioned steel outdoor setting in a vined alcove at one end, sheltered from the wind. After Jason showed the woman his credentials, she offered them a seat. A younger woman appeared backing from the front door of the house with a tray of tea cups and a steaming pot. There were slices of what looked like carrot cake. Jason ogled them as the tray was placed on the table. The three women were saying hello and talking between themselves. They all knew of each other, although it seemed the daughter of the widow was only actually meeting April for the first time. Jason had read reports of the girl’s reclusion during the years following her father’s murder. He had subscribed to the local Everly Cove paper and kept up with events in his old home town until he forgot to renew one year and lost interest.

“That’s what we’re investigating,” Jason managed to squeeze into the conversation when the human remains at the soccer field were mentioned. “You are probably aware April’s grandfather was convicted of the murder… We’re hoping to disprove that finding.”

“I never believed Lester was guilty,” Susan stated simply.

Mrs Mulvane had asked to be called Susan. She wasn’t scary in the slightest. She seemed a kind-hearted, down to earth type. If she had been in years of reclusion with her daughter, they were both making up for it.

Jason got another word in. “Do you remember a man named Clive Petrov? He used to call himself The Pastor.”

“Oh yes, I remember The Pastor,” Susan replied. She offered Jason a second slice of carrot cake. Her daughter topped up his tea. She hadn’t spoken a word to him yet, but she was blushing and grinning like she wanted to.

“Thank you, Nell… Did you bake this?” He motioned with the cake, ready to take a bite.

“Yes.” Her blush fired up.

“It’s good.” Jason took that bite and rolled his eyes in mock ecstasy—only slightly exaggerating. The cake was damn good.

“I just remember the guy always reading his Bible,” Susan went on. “He worked for my husband at the fish market for a while. I don’t remember ever actually meeting him.”

“I see… What about employment records? Would you have them dating back that far?”

“Oh yes, I’m sure we would… Not me personally. I don’t have any day to day involvement in the business. You could speak with John Phillips, though. He manages the market.”

Jason wrote down the name John Phillips in his notebook. Nell was craning her neck to see. He showed her. “I can call to ask if he’s busy,” she offered.

“Thank you.”

She checked that was okay with her mother and hurried inside.

Jason met her smile back over her shoulder as she disappeared. “Why don’t you believe Lester Barrett is guilty, Susan?”

“Because he was a nice man. A long time before that, he once did something for me that you don’t do unless your heart is in the right place.”

“Which was?” April asked with interest. “What did Granddad do?”

“I was just married, about twenty-three at the time. There was an incident at the market late one night. My husband was angry and taking it out on me. He had me by the hair, pulling me along. Lester was the only other person around, and he stood up to my husband. He tried to protect me and got punched for his efforts. He was small and thin, and my husband was a big bully… For the next few years, before Lester was sent to prison, he always asked how I was—the only person who knew anything of what I was going through back then. He was a kind-hearted man. He didn’t kill Grace McKenna.”

April was tearing up.

“Did you know Grace McKenna?” Jason asked.

“I kind of knew her mother because she was friends with my mother.”

“What was her mother’s name, please?”

“Elizabeth Farrell.”

Jason wrote that down. The name twigged. “Not Liz Farrell—the politician?”

“Yes, she was local council back then. She moved to Canberra when she was elected as our federal member of parliament… That would have been in the early seventies. I was in high school. I remember Grace as a primary school girl. She would have been about twelve, I think. She came back to live in her grandparents’ house when she got the job at the hospital. She was just finished her nursing degree. She was here for a year or so before she went missing one night after work.”

“She lived there alone?” Jason checked.

“Yes, she was there alone… There was a boyfriend away with the army. Ashley Morrison. He was a local boy—very nice. He wouldn’t fish with his father. He used to restore classic cars, and went on to race them, I believe.”

Nell returned from inside. “John is in his office. He said he has a meeting in half an hour.”

Jason finished jotting down all that Susan had said. He gulped his tea. “That was really delicious, he said to both women. Thank you so much for your time, Susan.”

“Come and visit again?” Nell asked.

“Of course,” April replied, squeezing her hands. “You can come to work with me and teach me how to bake that cake.”

Nell smiled huge. “I’d like to see your work.”

“That would be so wonderful,” Susan added.

Jason left the women and waited in the Cruiser. April joined him, glowing. “Oh my gosh, I just met the widow! She’s so cool.”

“They seem really nice.”

“They are. I wonder why they locked themselves up all those years—and why come out now?”

“I don’t think it has anything to do with what we’re investigating. Susan just remembers The Pastor like we do—a weird but peaceful enough character.”

“It was interesting, what she said about Granddad. That was him alright. She knew him!”

“Yep. Stepping up to try and protect her could have been anything, but to continually ask after her… She knows as well as you do your granddad’s innocent.”

April placed her hand within Jason’s and squeezed his fingers. “And so do you now, huh?”

“Yes, I do.”

He squeezed her hand back and held it until he parked in front of the fish market. They exchanged a glance as their hands parted. April was biting a lip and smiling with her eyes.

Behave yourself, Jason.

The market was crawling with plastic booted and aproned men and women. The office was on a mezzanine floor up a narrow metal staircase. They were met by a husky fellow with a weathered face and a shock of blond/grey hair. Jason accepted his powerful handshake. He beamed at April.

“Hello, April. Now, aren’t you a Godsend?”

“Me?” April was blushing as her two hands were squeezed by the big man.

“I just had a call from Nell. You’ve offered to take her for work experience—wonderful of you!”

“Oh that? That’s nothing. There are some nice ladies on my staff. I know she’s very shy about venturing away from the house. She’ll be taken care of.”

April got hugged. The guy was tearing up.

“Well, what can I do for you? Name it,” he declared, motioning to seats and sitting on his desk.

Jason produced his ID. “We’re investigating the murder of the young nurse Grace McKenna, attempting to clear the name of April’s grandfather. We have a lead regarding a man apparently employed here around the mid-eighties—a man named Clive Petrov. We’re wondering if you would have employee records? Any information about him at all?”

“Let’s see, huh?” The guy opened the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet and, after a moment, extracted a dog-eared yellow folder. He opened it. “There’s not much here: a basic work history, an address and home phone number, his original job application and a note about his voluntary termination, wage payment records.”

He handed Jason the folder. “Next of kin—Olga Petrov. 26 High Street, Goran Vale. New South Wales… Looks like we’re going for a drive.”

“Goran Vale’s just south of Sydney. It’s not far,” the fish market manager informed.

Jason nodded. April was peering over his shoulder—her hair smelling nice. He shook that off and focused on what he was reading. It seemed Clive Petrov had picked fruit in the Riverina and worked at several mines in that area during the 1970s, and had worked on a farm near Perth on the west coast of the country in the early 1960s. It appeared he had been unemployed for long stretches of time.

“So, he finished up here in 1984… I remember he worked for Mr Andrews fixing boats after that,” Jason stated, glancing up. “Do you recall seeing him around after 1985, John?”

“No, I vaguely remember him as The Pastor. I was away in the Navy when he worked here. I remember him working for Andrews. I think he left town but came back once or twice.”

“Yes, he did,” April confirmed. “I remember him at his caravan, but that was way back then as well.”

“Yes, I’ve not seen him around since maybe 1987 or 88,” John agreed.

A man appeared in the office doorway. “You ready, John?”

“I’ll be there in a minute… I have a meeting about to begin. You can hold onto the file.”

“Do you mind if we use your photocopy machine there?” Jason asked.

“Fine. Help yourself… And thank you so much, once again, April.”

April got a big hug. Jason accepted another iron-grip handshake. They made copies of the pages from the file and returned to the Land Cruiser in driving rain. They had left their raincoats in the car.

April’s knitted sweater was soaked and clinging to her. Jason noticed her nipples. He couldn’t help it. He swallowed hard and, as he drove, tried to keep his eyes up and ahead. She raked back her hair with both arms lifted, and he weakened and took a good long look, his face heating guiltily as her eyes flashed upon him and her sweet lips curved upward slightly.

Jason was busted. He figured it best to come clean. “That’s a good sweater,” he said, grinning himself. “Did you knit that?”

She pushed his shoulder.

“Sorry,” he said.

“That’s alright—I like your shirt too,” she tossed back at him. “Especially wet like that.”

Jason had another look, meeting her eyes first then taking a tour down slowly and back up again. She plucked at the waistband of her sweater, glancing down then meeting his eyes forthrightly.

“I remember like it was yesterday when you put my hand on your boob,” he said, smiling.

April stifled a giggle and looked away. “As if you were ever going to make a move if I didn’t.”

Jason’s sense of decorum abandoned him and he reached across and gave her left breast a quick squeeze. She slapped his wrist and glared, eyes and mouth open wide in mock horror. He just watched the road and kept smiling. He refused to turn back to face her. She ended up shaking her head and saying nothing.

He pulled into her driveway and turned off the car. They sat quietly for a moment. He noticed that she hadn’t turned to look at him again. He turned his head and she did too—their eyes locking. He wanted to kiss her. He glanced at her lips. She continued gazing steadily at him.

“Are you sure you want to come on this road trip? I could keep in touch—let you know anything I find out.”

“I want to come,” she said softly and emphatically.

Jason nodded. “Good.”

She smiled a little.

He shook his head. “You’re dangerous.”

She opened his map book and turned a few pages. “Goran Vale,” she said, pointing to a tiny town in the mountains south of Sydney. “We should be able to make Canberra by tonight. It looks like about two hours from there.”

Jason’s phone buzzed in his pocket. He found an email from Marcy. “Looks like Petrov worked in Moree in 1986, Augathella Queensland in 1987, and later that year he worked at a cattle station in some place called Cooper’s Crossing.”

Moree and Augathella were commonly known locations a day or so north of Sydney. April looked up the index in the back of the road atlas then turned to a map, showing Jason a tiny dot on the edge of the Strzelecki Desert, a further days’ drive west.

“I could see if the boss will spring for a flight,” Jason suggested.

April just smiled. “Or we pack for a week.”

“Are you up for a week on the road?”

“Definitely! Let’s go.”

 

Chapter 13

April stripped off her sweater and hung it over the back of her dressing table chair to dry. She opened a big suitcase on her bed and set about packing for her adventure. It was an easy pack—comfy clothes for the drive and warm but sexy for the motel evenings.

I won’t be sleeping with him, so no need for lingerie.

She usually wore a sleep-tee to bed, and packed a bunch of those. She had several frumpy ankle-length skirts that would do for the long days sitting in the car. She packed more sweaters and tops that offered plenty of cleavage.

Doesn’t mean I can’t tease the guy.

She dressed in her favourite skirt and a tight fitting knitted top. Jason was packed and waiting in the kitchen.

He looked up from his phone. “I’ve got some info here about the old lady on the island… She’s from Perth and shared an address there until the late ‘60s with a group of folks known as the Daisy Meadow Commune. She has two children listed as missing from back then. She’s resided there on Lorton Island since 1969 according to her tax records, which are secure. Baine couldn’t get access to those, only to the registered address.”

“What does that mean? What about her children?”

“The tax thing means she’s not stupid. She’s gone to some trouble keeping her affairs secret, which is fine—nothing necessarily suspicious in that. The children are interesting. They were a boy and girl, 4 and 2 years of age. The case file is still open.”

“So, they were abducted?”

“Probably.”

“Hmm—and she wants us to find this Petrov guy.”

“Yeah—two and two—he was probably involved.”

The notion of a manhunt thrilled April. “Come on, then, let’s go find him.”

Jason yawned. “Can you drive an eight seater cow truck?”

“Easy!”

April took the keys. They loaded their luggage, and by the time they had reached the top of the rim overlooking Everly Cove, Jason was asleep. He slept through the first three hours of the journey, waking on dusk when April had pulled into a roadside café for some coffee. She had spent the whole time daydreaming and frequently looking across at him. He sat up rubbing his face and eyes. He was so damned cute with his ruffled hair, she thought.

“Hey, sleepy head.”

“Where are we?”

“Not far from my granddad’s prison. We can’t visit now, though, it’s outside of hours.”

“Okay. We’ll talk to him as soon as we get back. He’ll probably be out by then.”

“Sure! Except the old bugger won’t talk about any of this, anyway.” April yawned and stretched. “It’s good coffee here.”

“Perfect.” Jason pulled out his wallet. “From here on, everything goes on account.”

“Oh good. Will we be staying five star in Canberra? I know a nice hotel.”

Jason chuckled. “Do you want me to get into trouble?” He touched April’s lower back to guide her through the screen door he held open for her, the feel of his warm hand setting a swarm of tingles a-rush.

April deliberately slowed so he would bump into her. His hand remained upon her waist. His other hand clutched as well, so that he held her hips. She was being a horrible tease, and she knew it as she peered back up at him, biting a lip. “What about four star?”

He didn’t answer that question but responded to her tease by cuddling her. His hands moved to her belly, and she claimed them, intertwining fingers. She tilted her head as he nuzzled. “I thought we were going to stop this,” he said, his deep whisper reverberating through her and making her press her bum back against him.

“I can’t help it,” she told him. It was true—she couldn’t.

He kissed her neck, and she took hold of his head with one hand, keeping her other hand pressed over his where they were still holding her stomach, his thumb stroking there. His warm lips upon her neck parted, softly sucking her skin with his tongue pressing. The magical sensation tingled through her chest and belly. She wanted to push his hands lower to meet up with where it was tickling her—to soothe the desire being created within.

They were alone in the shop, but a man and young boy entered and approached the counter, and a woman came from the kitchen in the back to serve them. April kept Jason’s hand and led him to the counter. She clutched it behind her back, squeezing it with both of hers and holding on as something strange and exciting continued to course through her. She ordered their coffee, speaking the necessary words, but her head was spinning, her mind kind of numb.

She didn’t let go of Jason’s hand. He opened his wallet on the counter and negotiated the credit card transaction with his left. She was still squeezing his right. She was plying his big fingers as he stroked with his thumb. She eventually had to let go a little to pick up her coffee cup, and ended up clinging to his arm as he led back out to where they were parked. He leaned against the car. She nestled against his side, claiming his hand again and intertwining her fingers once more.

“I don’t know what’s happening,” she said to him.

“There’s no need to know, April. You just feel however you want to feel. I’ll try to be respectful.”

Jason sipped his coffee.

“Respectful, huh?” April sipped hers too.

He nodded. “I was thinking about it when I was dozing off in the car. It doesn’t feel right being alone with another man’s wife. But it doesn’t feel entirely wrong either.” He met April’s eyes. His were tinged with sincerity but also with something that touched the sense of excitement she was feeling. “I’m going to try to refrain from kissing you too much,” he said.

“Oh? You’re going to try, are you?”

He nodded some more. “Yep—going to do my best.”

April smiled. “So, we’re going to have rules?”

He shrugged a little.

“Alright—I’ll try to refrain from kissing you too… That’s a good rule… What about cuddling?” She released his hand and slipped her arm around his waist. “Is this allowed?”

She had snuggled beneath his arm, which naturally ended up around her. He squeezed her boob.

“Hey!” she cried, giggling and squirming away from his big, naughty paw.

He was just grinning. “Oops.”

“Oops, my foot. That’s twice you’ve copped a feel, and I thought you were a nice guy.”

“Felt kinda nice to me,” he tossed back and took another sip of his coffee.

“Hmm—for me too,” she returned, snuggling back to his side.

Where they had stopped was at altitude. They were in the foothills of Alps, which were still capped with snow in early spring. A crisp breeze had April pulling her cardigan around tight as she huddled close to Jason, drinking her coffee. His naughty hand had come to rest upon her arm, holding her. She was suddenly a teenager again, Jason the boy from two houses down.

He took over the driving while she found herself dozing in the warmth of the car and the soft luxury of the leather seat. She woke to the feel of the vehicle stopping. Jason had found a motel on the outskirts of Canberra city. It was three star, new and clean. They checked into their rooms, agreeing to meet in half an hour at the motel restaurant for a meal.

April quickly showered, changed and dispensed with her husband over a short call, in which she failed to mention she was on a road-trip with a guy she was going to try not to kiss too often. She found Jason waiting at a table by a window. There were a dozen other motel guests seated in the small, brightly lit dining area.

“So, the boss just said he couldn’t find any record of Petrov ever applying for a passport, and the only police records seem to be protest demonstrations, over in Perth in the early ‘60s and in Goran Vale around 1970.”

“That wouldn’t be unusual for a killer, though, would it?” April suggested.

“No—I guess not. Nor would the Bible carrying… Maybe he knew he was evil and was trying to draw strength to stop himself.”

April ordered a light seafood meal. Jason put away a large steak and a couple of potatoes smothered in gravy. They chatted about their children.

“So, what exactly are we going to do tomorrow?” April asked as she was being left at her door.

“We’ll try the address of his next of kin and call in at the local police station.”

“Oh okay… Goodnight, Jason.”

He moved his hand, just softly touching her side. “Goodnight, April.”

April pulled on a sleep-tee and jumped into bed, cuddling herself with a big feather quilt. She was still simmering inside from the feel of the guy’s touch. She curled up in a little ball with her hands wedged between her thighs, smiling gleefully at her life all of a sudden.

Oh my god—this is so amazing!

 

Chapter 14

The road between Canberra and Sydney was a dual lane expressway. Jason opened the Land Cruiser up and had them at the turn-off to Goran Vale within a couple of hours. They drove through the historic township of Moss Vale, where the streets were lined with quaint little buildings and blossoming flower gardens. Twenty minutes later they rolled into a tiny township in a meandering valley of small farms. The GPS navigator had them turn at a clock tower in the middle of town and drive up into the side of a mountain. Their destination turned out to be a little timber cottage almost completely overgrown by trees and shrubs.

Jason and April stood together on a broad veranda waiting for a response to their knock at the door. Jason knocked a second time. He had heard a noise from within the cottage.

A curtain moved. A moment later the door cracked open and the face of an old woman appeared. “Yes?”

“Good morning, ma’am. We’re hoping to speak with Olga Petrov,” Jason announced cheerily.

“Yes…” The door opened a little more. The woman looked to April.

“Hello. Are you Olga?” April said, offering a smile.

“Yes, I am… What do you want?”

April edged in front of Jason and shuffled him back from the door. “Olga, we’re hoping you can help us. Do you know of a man named Clive Petrov—a member of your family?”

“That’s my brother’s name,” the woman said. There was a light of interest in her eyes.

“Would you know the current whereabouts of your brother, ma’am?”

The old woman eyed Jason as he spoke. Her jaw was set. She offered no response.

“Olga, your brother lived with my granddad years ago in a town called Everly Cove,” April went on. “Something happened, and we need to find him.”

“I haven’t heard from my brother in many years,” Olga Petrov replied softly. “He left here when he was very young. He returned for a short time then left again. I’ve not heard from him since.”

“Oh, I see,” April said.

She looked back at Jason and motioned for him to go for a walk or something. He stepped down from the veranda and waited out of sight of the old woman but close enough that he could hear what was being said.

“I don’t mean to bother you, but it’s very important… Can you tell me about your brother, please, Olga? Anything at all about him…”

It took a moment for the old woman to respond. Her voice was rich with sorrow as she spoke. “I believe my brother is dead. I’ve prayed for it—for the Lord to forgive him.”

“Forgive him for what?”

“For what he became… Clive was a weak child with the way of his father. He became an evil man.”

“I’m sorry,” April offered. “He hurt you—others?”

The woman didn’t verbalise a response to that.

“I’m sorry,” April said again.

“It was a long time ago… I hope he didn’t hurt you, miss.”

“No, he was nice to me. We fear he may have attacked another woman, though. A nurse was murdered 20 years ago. My granddad is in prison but he didn’t do it… Do you think your brother would have been capable of murder?”

“Yes, he would have. I’m sure he would have,” the old woman answered emphatically.

“But you believe he’s dead now. How do you know?”

“I can feel it… I’ve felt safe from him for a long time now.”

Jason strolled back up the garden path and waited in the car. He dozed in the warmth of the sun. It was another half an hour before April joined him.

“Hey, sleuth, what did you get?”

“Oh my god, you should see her rose garden out the back—all white—absolutely beautiful.”

“Yeah, the front here looks lovely too. Must be some gardener,” Jason suggested.

“She is, and she’s an amazing woman too. I think her brother abused her, probably her father did too. I’m only guessing, but that would make sense.”

“Yeah, I figured as much from what she said and the way she looked at me… Any clues to what became of Clive?”

“She knows less than we do. She hasn’t seen or heard of him since that protest rally thing here in the early ‘70s—way before he was in The Cove…. She said to ask her neighbour. He’s a local cop and has done some investigating into what become of him apparently.”

“Which neighbour?”

“We have to drive back around to the main road. It’s the cottage directly in front of this one. I saw the guy in his yard, but I thought it best to come and get you.”

Jason drove back down the hill to the clock tower and along to a small stone cottage overgrown with vines. There was an old black and grey dog sitting on the front step beating its tail. They gave him a pat while waiting.

The door opened. “Morning,” a tall, dark featured man greeted them.

“Hello, Ben McEwen?” Jason asked.

“Yep.”

“I’m Jason Ford.”

“April Anderson,” April announced with a smile.

“We were just talking with your neighbour Olga Petrov. She suggested we speak with you.” Jason produced his ID. “You’re a police officer?”

“Senior Constable… How can I help you? What do you want with Olga?”

A woman appeared cuddling up to the guy. She was a stunningly attractive brunette. Jason nodded in response to her smile. “We’re investigating a man named Clive Petrov, Olga’s brother. In 1985 there was a young woman murdered in our home town down south. April’s grandfather—” Jason included April by drawing her forward. “He has all but completed a life sentence for the murder, which we believe he is innocent of. Clive Petrov lived in a caravan in his backyard at the time. We suspect he was, in fact, the murderer. We have leads to several places he resided in the years following. We’re looking for any information we can find about him.”

“Oh my gosh,” the brunette woman exclaimed. “Hi, I’m Kate,” she said. “That’s terrible, about your grandfather.”

“Thanks. It’s been hard, but we just want to clear his name,” April replied.

“Of course… Come in,” the woman went on. “Sorry, we just got back from our honeymoon and the place is a mess.”

“Oh my god—that was your dress?” April cried. There was a white wedding gown adorning a headless mannequin.

The man, Ben, rolled eyes toward the kitchen where Jason joined him at a table. “Coffee?” he offered. There was a pot brewed, the aroma filling the small room.

Jason took a sip from the cup he was poured, relishing the strong hit of caffeine. “So, do you know anything of this Petrov character, Ben?”

“I know a bit. I can’t help you with anything current, but I did some research and know quite a lot about him… He was basically a victim of child abuse. His stepfather was a cruel bastard who beat him and taught him to abuse women. I think he was made to participate in sexually abusing his sister, Olga. I’m assuming he didn’t do it willingly. I don’t know that… There was another brother involved—a half-brother to Petrov—who went on to become a serial rapist and killer.”

“Hell… Really?”

“Yeah. James Ray. He abducted 6 girls from around here and over the coast around the mid-80s.”

The women came in from the lounge room. They sat with their coffees.

Kate sliced fruit cake. “That half-brother, James Ray, was a monster. He got what he deserved,” she declared.

“What happened to him?” April asked.

“He was attacked by a man who he forced to be involved, and he ended up with serious brain damage. Then, years later, when it was found out what he had done, the old police sergeant here shot him dead.”

Jason looked up from writing in his notebook. “Any chance Clive Petrov was involved in those murders—with his half-brother?”

Everyone looked to Ben. He scratched his chin. “Good question… It’s not something that was canvased during the investigation. There’s nothing in the evidence to suggest Petrov was involved or even in the vicinity.”

“But who knows—maybe, eh?”

“It’s possible,” Ben agreed with a shrug.

Jason nodded—pen at the ready. “Anything else? What about when he was back here in the early ‘70s—anything from then?”

“He was involved in that religious sect thing back then, wasn’t he?” Kate confirmed with her husband.

“He apparently left here when he was about 20 years old and went across to Perth where he got involved with a hippie commune called Daisy Meadow.”

“Yes, I’ve got him working at a farm by that name in the early ‘60s,” Jason concurred.

“Yes, then he left and came back to the east coast where he started another commune on Lorton Island.”

“Oh wow! We were there the other day,” April exclaimed. “That must be those old people in the little houses,” she said to Jason.

“Yeah—it seems there is still some of those commune members on the island. They have a tiny community separate from this big flashy holiday resort.”

“Why were you there?” Ben asked.

“That’s where we got the name Petrov. There’s an old woman there who desperately wants to know what became of him. We think it’s to do with her children being abducted.”

Ben grunted. “Figures.”

“Yes, it does,” Kate agreed sombrely. “That’s when he came back here… He brought some of the members of that commune here, and they set up on a farm just out of town. But Petrov didn’t stay long apparently, and they all ended up committing suicide in some stupid religious pact or something.”

“And he wasn’t known to be involved in that?” Jason checked. “Did the group have a name?”

“No, he wasn’t… They called themselves The Trelor Sect,” Ben dictated as Jason wrote.

“And that’s about all we found out about the guy,” Kate added.

“Excellent. Thank you both very much,” Jason replied and took a bite of cake. “This is good.”

“Wedding reception left-overs,” Ben explained, taking a bite of his slice. “An old biddy down the street made it.”

Jason enjoyed the friendly chat over the next hour or so. The business of the moment was set aside, and what developed felt like two everyday couples meeting and getting to know one another. Jason found April’s hand under the table and held it while they talked about Goran Vale and Everly Cove—comparing and discussing which was the least modern and the most backward. Ben was from a farm out west, Kate a city girl. Goran Vale seemed to offer them a bit of country with access to the city only an hour away.

Kate returned the conversation to where it started when Jason and April were leaving. “Please come back and tell us everything you learn about Petrov?” she asked. “It’s very important to some friends of ours here in town.”

As Jason backed out of the driveway, the friendly couple waved, cuddling together in their doorway.

“Well, they were nice,” April said.

Jason glanced. He wanted to say how much he felt like a boyfriend right then. He glanced again. “You’re frigging hot,” he said.

April’s eyes rolled. She bit her smile, turning away. “I think I’ve got the hots!”

Jason laughed. “You can’t say that… No one says they’ve got the hots anymore.”

“I do… I’ve got them.”

April’s phone rang.

“Hi, Mandy.

“No, I skipped town.

“Bad things.

“Uh huh—very bad.

“Of course.” She glanced at Jason. “Who do you think?”

There was a pause before she added, kind of hiding behind her hair and speaking secretively this time, “No, not exactly… It’s worse than that. It’s what we were talking about the other day… I’ll tell you when I see you, okay?

“About the end of the week. I’m not sure…

“Okay, bye.”

Jason didn’t enquire. He just drove along quietly, winding around a bluff and back down to the expressway into Sydney. April seemed pensive as she gazed out the window. He left her with that. She tucked her legs up on the seat, her peasant skirt folding between them, and she touched his hand, gathering it to intertwine her long, thin fingers. Her hand was cold. He wormed his way in between her thighs, making her smile out her window while he enjoyed the feel of her through the thin cotton fabric, stroking occasionally with his thumb.

There were expressway conditions right through the sprawling city of Sydney. It took only an hour and a half to reach the northern extremity, and the dual lane highway continued through an hour of national park before there was a turn-off that took them onto the New England Highway and up into the Great Dividing Range. They picked up lunch while refuelling. It was already mid-afternoon, the mountain air cold.

April was about to get back in the car when Jason pulled her to him and took her into his arms. He bent to her and kissed her parted lips. He met her tongue with his, caressing softly and tasting before breaking off and releasing her. “Sorry—couldn’t resist,” he explained. “Been thinking about that all day.”

She just held his gaze steadily, nodding slightly in apparent agreement. He could have easily kissed her again. He didn’t, though. He closed her door and got into the driver’s seat. She sat with her hands clasped in her lap, looking ahead and smiling lightly.

“I don’t have strong will power,” he said.

“Hmm—apparently not,” she replied, still just looking forward, smiling a little bigger.

Another three hours of travel along a quite busy secondary highway brought them to a tiny provincial township with a motel light displaying a vacancy. It was a single level fibro building painted in gaudy lime-green. White painted rocks bordered the driveway.

“Maybe two stars?” Jason suggested. He had pulled up. They were both looking at the place.

“There’s plenty of cars—must be okay,” April said, yawning.

There were eight rooms and seven cars, in fact. The reception counter was attended by a buxom woman with a friendly, round face and big glasses.

“One room will be fine,” April said to her. Jason had just asked for two.

Jason looked to her. “Are you sure? We could drive a bit further.”

“You won’t get anything in Gunnedah. You usually need to book in Narrabri,” the little woman informed. “I have a fold-up cot here you could use.”

“Okay—thank you,” Jason replied.

April claimed the key and left him to sign in and bring the cot. The little round woman wheeled it from her room beyond the reception area. It was a light-weight sprung frame with a thin foam mattress. It would do.

He found April lugging her suitcase into room 6—a simple rectangular shaped space with a double bed, a bench and two chairs with a bar fridge and small television, and a white-tiled bathroom sectioned off at the end.

“It smells clean,” April commented.

Jason shrugged. “Looks fine to me.” He unfolded his bed under the single window. “Do you want first shower? I’ll go across to the servo and see if they’ve got some burgers or something.”

“I’ll shower later… A burger sounds good… I need to call my daughter, and I’d better check in with Eric. He’s probably trying to call me at home.”

Jason tossed his bag on his bed and went across to a small service station with a neon hot food sign alight on the roof. He waited for the burgers, pondering the fact April was probably talking to her husband right then.

Jason had put the inconvenient fact of April being married aside and convinced himself a certain level of contact was okay. As long as he didn’t go beyond some playful touching and friendly chat, he was only picking up where he left off twenty years ago. He had ridiculously justified it to himself as harmless fun, even if there was a bit of kissing.

Deeper down, he didn’t want to ruin a marriage. He had known April since before she met her husband, though, and he had further justified that their relationship was somehow immune to the normal rules of fidelity and proprietary.

The whole idea seemed less than solid while out of sight of the woman. He found her sitting back on the bed texting, all smiles. His doubts and reservations vanished.

They ate their burgers. Jason showered first and got into the small bed April had made up for him. She took ages in her shower. He couldn’t resist watching her get into her bed. She had on a big tee-shirt, her slender legs bare, white panties flashing. She turned off the lamp attached to the bedhead.

“Goodnight, April.”

“Night, Jason.”

Jason lay staring at the ceiling for a long while. April was continually turning one way and the other.

“Are you okay up there?”

“This bed’s weird,” she said, huffing. “The sheet’s too stiff and the blanket’s too heavy.”

Jason chuckled. “Baby bear’s bed is just right.”

“Well, how fair is that? I’m the girl. I’m supposed to get the good bed.”

“We can swap if you want.”

“No, thanks… I just can’t decide which side to sleep on.”

“Sleep in the middle.”

April huffed again. “Do you want to come up here?”

Jason’s entire body tingled. He took too long to answer.

“Bring your pillows. We can put them in the middle.”

“Okay,” he said, immediately this time.

He got up and approached the bed. April scooted across to the far side and pulled back the covers. She took his pillows, placing them lengthways in the middle. He could see her gleeful smile as he got into his side and pulled up the covers.

“That’s better already,” she said, padding the blankets down either side of her body.

Jason could smell her hair on his pillow. He remained on his side, facing the middle of the bed. He was sporting an erection.

“I still think it’s just learned behaviour and a bit of family susceptibility,” he started, wishing to change the subject on his mind. They had been discussing the two half-brother, possible killers earlier. “If you went back another generation, there’s probably something in their father’s upbringing that started it all.”

“Yeah, but where does it start? Does it start with the father, or the grandfather, or another generation back, or with other influences? How come Petrov and the other brother can be evil while the sister is just a victim? Why isn’t she evil too? She seems really nice.”

“Well, I suppose it comes back to personality traits,” Jason mused. “Some kids are more susceptible. You often see siblings grow up to be totally different kinds of people, I guess.”

April rolled over, facing away from the middle. “So, you’re saying I’m right?”

Her feet touched Jason’s leg. They were icy. He didn’t move away, rather, he crossed his other leg to cover them.

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right,” he said, yawning.

“Hmm. You’ll get used to that… Night, Jason.”

“Night, icicle.”

“I know—but your feet are so warm.”

 

Chapter 15

April opened her eyes to sunlight and an unfamiliar wall. Her mind quickly caught up with reality as she rolled her eyes to look around. She was snug and warm, the air she was breathing rather cold. Jason was spooned behind cuddling her, his arm between her breasts, his hand resting in front of her shoulder with his thumb touching her neck. His knees were bent behind hers, and she could feel his quite prominent erection pressing against her lower back.

She measured breaths, afraid to move. Her tee-shirt was up around her middle, Jason’s arm inside it. Where his penis was pressing, her skin was bare. She wondered if it was inside his shorts. It felt like it may have been poking free of them.

Her hands were beneath her chin. She was cuddling his arm. His deep, steady breaths were caressing the back of her neck. She lifted her head to see the two pillows on the floor in front of her. It seemed she had removed them, but she didn’t remember doing so.

Her husband had been apologetic on the phone the previous night. He had confessed to being distant and neglectful in recent years and spoken of how he missed her and couldn’t wait to get home to her.

April had explained where she was and what she was doing, but had withheld any information about the man with her. She had basically lied and let Eric believe her to be travelling with someone her uncle knew and trusted. She had fostered the impression of Jason being a much older man.

She couldn’t see how she was going to slip out of bed while his arm was up her shirt. She closed her eyes, deciding to just enjoy the cuddle.

Shortly after dozing off to sleep again, April woke to the sound of a deep voice against her neck, “Oops.”

“Yes—oops,” she agreed. She still didn’t move.

“Um…”

“Yes—um is right,” she went on. “I believe our barrier has been compromised.”

“You could say that… You have warm feet now, though.”

“I do have warm feet.”

“Um—sorry about—um…”

April giggled. “Is it a compliment or just a usual morning one?”

Jason chuckled. “I think it’s been up all night.”

“Wow. It must be tired.”

“Not really.”

April giggled some more. “But that’s not even the biggest compromise… Well, not so much biggest—it’s not the trickiest.”

The penis pressing against her back flexed.

“Hey, you!” she scolded.

“Sorry… Um—what’s so tricky, exactly?”

“This is,” April explained, tapping his hand. “How did this get in here?”

“I can’t remember,” Jason answered innocently. “Naughty hand.”

“Hmm… Is it going to behave itself on the way out?”

Jason’s other arm was beneath April’s pillow. He extracted it and propped his head up to meet her eyes. She returned his smile.

“You’ve got warm boobs too,” he said.

“You have a hairy arm.”

He stroked her neck with his thumb. She looked at his lips, meeting them as he kissed her. He ground against her. She squirmed her bottom back against him. Their kiss deepened as his hand closed over her breast. She rolled onto her back, parting her legs as he moved on top of her. He cupped her head in his hands, stroking her cheeks with his thumbs. He kissed her again, deeply, searchingly. His erection split her as she ground against it. If not for her panties it would have been too late to talk about what was happening.

“What are we doing, April?”

“I don’t know… What comes naturally, I guess.”

“A hundred percent, but that’s no excuse, is it?”

“No, it’s not.” They continued kissing, breathlessly now. “It’s no excuse at all,” April confessed as she gathered Jason’s penis and guided it in through the edge of her underwear.

“Oh, April,” he groaned, gripping her head and surging with his hips.

She was ready. He entered her easily, and she clung to his taut body as he withdrew then plunged into her again. She buried her face against his neck. He held her there with one hand over the back of her head. His other hand gripped her bottom as he continued thrusting.

April’s orgasm hit quickly and hard. It thumped through her belly, with the man on top of her beyond any kind of control. He was driving and grinding against her, still gripping her head and clenching her bottom. He let out a loud groan and surged one last time, pressing deeply into her as his own passion climaxed.

Jason sought her face, kissing her mouth and her eyes. He got to stroking and playing with her hair. He had lifted his upper body, relieving her of his weight, but they remained coupled together—his penis still firm and moving inside of her, keeping her on the verge of another peak.

April couldn’t recall the last time she had been so aroused. She felt him firm even more. “Don’t stop,” she told him, breathing the words into his mouth.

He remained propped on his elbows, servicing her desire with a fluid, rolling motion of his pelvis. He kept it up steadily and drove her through her second orgasm. He then crushed her to his body and took what he needed, pounding into her wildly until her belly clenched again, and he pressed deeply into her once more and ejaculated.

The guy collapsed afterward. April held his head, stroking his hair.

“Oops,” he said into the pillow.

“No, not oops…”

“No?” he asked, lifting to meet her eyes.

She shook her head.

He stroked hair from her forehead. “Were we safe at least?”

April bit her lip. “Um…”

Jason’s expression didn’t change. He had moved to her side. His fingers trailed from her face to her neck and down to her breast. “Oops,” he said, grinning a little.

“Why—have you had partners?”

“Nope—just the one.”

“Me too,” April said.

“Yeah, so, disease safe—but what about other safe?”

“I should be.”

“Not on the pill or anything?”

April shook her head. “No need. Eric’s vasectomised.” She felt her face heat as she shared her next thought. “Plus I don’t care about that kind of oops, Jason.”

Jason’s face reddened too. “You don’t?”

She shook her head again. “No.”

He kissed her. “That’s bad… That’s a very naughty idea.”

“So?”

“So nothing, April Anderson. You’re not exactly discouraging me.”

“Good.” April kissed him back. “It’s only natural, right?”

“Perfectly natural,” Jason said, smiling broadly now……………

Part 4 coming soon – full novel will be available to read free through January.

From the back cover:

Jason Ford is back in town after twenty years to investigate remains of a young woman unearthed at the local soccer field. April Anderson still has his unanswered schoolboy love letters hidden in the bottom of her jewellery box. Her hubby is overseas visiting his parents. Surely it’s okay to offer an old friend the spare room… Nothing problematic in that, right?

Wrong! All kinds of wrong. All levels of it… But will it ultimately be wrong if it turns out to be a new happily-ever-after?

Both times Jason has encountered April there’s been another dude with a claim. This one is overseas and out of the picture for the next few weeks. And April isn’t happy in her relationship. Not that that should be any of Jason’s business… Except there’s the tiny detail that Jason actually did see and develop feelings for April before this current guy did – back when they were at high school together… Surely that gives him some small level of entitlement, doesn’t it?

Happy reading, G.S.Bailey

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