Cameron Kelly opened the heavy side door of the random building, shut it
smartly behind him, and became enveloped in darkness. The kind of inky
darkness that would make even the bravest boy imagine monsters under the bed.
been some years since Cameron had been a boy, longer still since he’d realised
people didn’t always tell the truth. Needless to say his two older brothers
had made the monsters up.
the small window between himself and the Brisbane winter sunshine outside
revealed the coast was clear, he let his forehead rest on the cold glass with
a sheepish thunk.
the people he could have seen, many miles from where a man such as he ought to
have been while commerce and industry raged on in the city beyond, it had to
be his younger sister Meg, downing take-away coffee and gabbing with her
had seen him wandering the suburban Botanical Gardens, pondering lily pads and
cacti rather than neck deep in blueprints and permits and funding for
multi-million dollar skyscrapers, she would not have let him be until he’d
told her why.
a grown man, a man of means and, most of the time, sense, was hiding. Because
the truth would only hurt her. And even though he’d long since been cast as
the black sheep of the Kelly clan, hurting those he cared about was the last
thing he would ever intentionally do.
held his watch up to the parcel of light, saw it was nearly nine, and
and Bruce, respectively his architect and his project manager, would have been
at the CK Square site for more than an hour waiting for him to approve the
final plans for the fifty-fourth floor. This close to the end of a very long
job, if they hadn’t throttled one another by now then he would be very lucky.
made to open the door to leave, remembered Meg, the one person whose leg he’d
ever been able to pull, even with two adept older brother to show him how, and
was over taken by a stronger compulsion than the desire to play intermediary
between two grown men. His hand dropped.
the boys think he was making a grand entrance when he finally got there. It’d
give them something to agree upon for once. He could live with being thought
to have an ego the size of Queensland. He was a Kelly after all; impressions
of grandeur came with the name.
closed,’ a voice echoed somewhere behind him.
spun on his heel, hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. Though he
hadn’t boxed since his last year at St Grellans, in a flash his fists were
raised. His fingers wrapped so tight around his thumbs they creaked. Lactic
acid burned in his arms. It seemed fresh air, sunshine and tiptoeing through
the tulips weren’t all the catharsis for an uneasy mind they were cracked up
peered around the huge empty space and couldn’t see a thing past the end of
his nose bar a square of pink burned into his retina from the bright light of
desperately sorry,’ the voice said. ‘I seem to have given you a little
Unquestionably female it was. Husky, sweet, mellow tones drifting to him
through the darkness, with a surprisingly vivid dash of sarcasm considering
she had no idea who she was dealing with.
didn’t frighten me,’ he insisted.
how about you put down your dukes before you knock yourself out.’
Cameron, surprised to find his fists were still raised, unclenched all over,
letting his hands fall to his sides, before shucking his blazer back onto his
I love an eager patron as much as the next gal,’ the mocking voice said, ‘but
the show doesn’t start for another half hour. Best you wait outside.’
show? Cameron’s eyes had become more used to the light, or lack thereof. He
could make out a bumpy outline on the horizon as rows of seats decked out
auditorium style. They tipped backward slightly so that an audience could
look upward without getting neck strain, as the show that went on in
this place didn’t happen on stage but in the massive domed sky above.
stumbled into the planetarium.
He hadn’t been in the place since he was a kid. It seemed the plastic bucket
seats and industrial carpet scraping beneath his shoes hadn’t changed.
craned his neck back as far as it would go, trying to make out the shape and
form of the roof. The structural engineer in him wondered about the support
mechanisms for the high ceiling, while the vestiges of the young boy who’d
once upon a time believed in monsters under the bed simply marvelled at the
deep, dark, infinite black.
Finally, thankfully, one thing or the other managed to shake loose a measure
of the foreboding that ruminating over rhododendrons had not.
kept looking up as he said, ‘I’ll wait if it’s alright by you.’
‘Actually, it’s not.’
‘Rules. Regulations. Occupational health and safety. Fire hazards. Today’s
Tuesday. You’re wearing the wrong shoes. Take your pick.’
slowly lowered his head, glancing down at his perfectly fine shoes which he
could barely see and he was a heck of a lot closer to them than she was.
peered back out into the nothingness, but still he couldn’t make her out.
Whoever she was.
Security, ready to throw him out on his ear? A fellow interloper, protecting
her find? A delusion, born out of an acute desire to change the subject that
had shanghaied his thoughts since he’d caught the financial news on TV that
now and I can reserve you a seat,’ the honeyed tones suggested.
Management then. And strangely anticlimactic.
even personally find you a nice comfy spot,’ she continued, ‘smack bang in the
centre, with no wobbles or lumps, that doesn’t squeak every time you ooh
or aah at the show. What do you say?’
didn’t say anything. As he could tell she’d moved closer. By a slight
shifting of the air to his left, the sound of cloth whispering against skin,
and the sudden sweet scent of vanilla making his stomach clench with hunger.
forgotten to eat breakfast? Yes he had. He swore softly as he remembered
appearance on the financial report on the TV news by the very man who had made
him a family outcast many years before had not been a bolt from the blue.
Quinn Kelly, his father, was a shameless self-promoter of the family business;
the Kelly Investment Group, or KInG as it was irresistibly dubbed in the
press. It had been the man’s appearance itself that had left Cameron
feeling like he’d been punched in the gut.
father was the epitome of the Australian dream. An immigrant who had come to
the country as a boy with nothing to his name but the clothes on his back, and
he had built himself the kind of large, rambunctious, photogenic family the
press prized, and a financial empire men envied. Tall, handsome, charming,
straight-talking, the man acted as though he would live forever and the world
believed him. Needed to believe him he had his fingers in so many
Cameron hadn’t realised he’d believed the man immortal too until he’d noticed
the pallor make-up couldn’t hide, the weight lost from his cheeks, the
dullness in his usually sharp that would only be noticed by someone who went
out of his way not to catch a glimpse of the man every day.
that reason it was highly possible that not even the family knew. The rest of
the clan were so deeply a part of one another’s lives he could only imagine
they had not noticed the infinitesimal changes.
lost hours trying to convince himself it wasn’t true. And not for the kinds
of reasons that made him a good son. But because he’d felt the sharp
awakening of care for a man not worth caring about.
wasn’t even nine in the morning and already he wished this day was well and
door is right behind you,’ the only highlight in his day so far said.
Cameron pulled himself up to his full height in the hopes the unwanted
concerns might run off his back. ‘While I’m enjoying the thought of you
testing each and every seat for me, I’m not here to see the show.’
don’t have to act coy with me,’ she said, her teasing voice lifting him until
he felt himself rocking forward on his toes. ‘I know that even big boys have
been known to find comfort in the idea that there might be something bigger
and grander than you are out there in the cosmos that will burn bright long
after you are a two line obituary in your local paper.’
Surprising himself, he laughed. Out loud. Something he had not expected he’d
do today. But it wasn’t often people dared to sass him. He was too
successful, his reputation implacable, his surname too synonymous with winning
at all costs. Perhaps that’s why he liked it.
expertise on the ways of big boys aside,’ he said, ‘I saw the show years ago
in middle school.’
ago?’ the husky voice lobbed back. ‘Lucky for you astronomers hit a point at
exactly that point in time when they said, “Well that’ll do us. We’ve
found enough stars out there for a hundred generations of couples to name
after one another for Valentines Day. Why bother studying the eternal mystery
laughed again. And for the first time in hours he felt like he could turn his
neck without fear of pulling a muscle. He had not a clue if the woman was
eighteen or eighty, if she was married or single, or even from this planet, he
was enjoying himself too much to care.
took a step away from the door. He couldn’t see the floor beneath his feet.
It felt liberating; like he was stepping out into an abyss.
he stubbed his toe, and then it felt like he was walking around in a strange
building in the dark.
Something moved. Cameron turned his head a fraction to the left and finally
he saw her; a dark blob melting into the shadows. If she was standing on the
same level as him she was tall. There was a distinct possibility of long wavy
hair, and lean curves poured into a floaty calf length dress. When he
imagined seriously chunky boots he realised he didn’t have any kind of
perspective to trust his eyes.
he’d always trusted his gut. And while he’d come to the gardens searching for
the means to navigate his way around a difficult truth, the only real truth he
had so far found was the voice tugging him further into the blackness.
about you turn on a light,’ he said, ‘then we can come to an arrangement that
suits us both.’
you believe I’m conserving power?’
wasn’t a single thing about the tone of her voice that made him even half
believe her. His smile became a grin and the tightness in his shoulders just
took another step.
for even half a second,’ he said, his voice dropping several notes giving as
good as he got to that voice. That husky feminine voice. Mocking him.
Taking him down a peg or two. Or three if he was at all honest.
Kelly and all.
kept her distance.
because the intruder seemed all that dangerous. She knew the nooks and
crannies of this place like the back of her hand, and after stargazing half
her life she could see in the dark as well as a cat. And the lazy way he’d
held his fists earlier, like he instinctively knew nobody would dare take a
swipe, she’d surely have been able to get in a jab or two.
kept her distance because she knew exactly who he was...
From "Dating the Rebel Tycoon"
by Ally Blake
Harlequin Romance July 2009
Copyright: © 2008
® and ™ are trademarks
of the publisher. The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books
S.A. For more romance information surf to: http://www.eHarlequin.com