Escape welcomes Susanne Bellamy, Juanita Kees, and their delicious heroes to the blog…
Setting: Clare Valley, winery restaurant.
Scene: Matt Mahoney and Mark Johnson meet at the bar. Shake hands and start chatting.
Matt: Hi, I’m Matt Mahoney. Yonder is Andie, my wife. Is that your wife she’s talking with?
Mark (grins widely): Mark Johnson, good to meet you. Yes, that’s my Lily. We’re on honeymoon.
Matt (grins back): Now there’s a wee coincidence. So are we. Andie didn’t want to leave Australia when I suggested visiting Ireland. Even Hawaii didn’t tempt her. Actually, I don’t think she wanted to leave the house.
Mark: So, how did you meet the love of your life?
Matt: I was at a charity function, you know the sort—black tie and glitter—and Andie finagled a waitressing job so she could meet me. You know the woman deliberately doused me in champagne to get my attention?
Mark (chuckles): That’s one way of doing it. I met Lily under somewhat sadder circumstances, unfortunately. I’m a detective, and I met her while working on a murder investigation. It seems like a lifetime ago now we’re here enjoying the Clare Valley sunshine together.
Matt: Glad you worked out she was the right woman for you even under those circumstances. Andie called me ‘Wrong Matt’ when we met. I called her ‘Trouble’ without knowing how true it was! I should have read the signs—red hair and a firebrand to boot. When that woman puts her mind to achieving something you’d better grab your hard hat and boots because there is nought you can do but go along for the ride.
Mark: I hear you, mate, nothing quite like a strong-willed woman to keep a man on his toes. Lily’s one tough lady. She might be as beautiful as the flower she’s named after, but there’s nothing delicate about her. She’s the bravest woman I know.
Matt: Tough situations do that. What do you do now your murder investigation is over?
Mark: Lily and I volunteer at the Tiny Watt’s Teenage Rehabilitation Centre. We help kids involved in street gangs and drugs. Our weekends are spent teaching the kids life skills or getting them involved in sports or artistic activities to keep them off the streets. What do you do for fun?
Matt: I own a development company and work on heritage restoration. Andie was running The Shelter on a shoestring. It’s protected housing for women and children in crisis and she’d been trying to meet with me to talk about it. I bought the building from her dad without knowing of her work. You could say we clashed over ownership but now we manage the centre in a new location out Williamstown way.
Mark: That’s the best-looking pair of women I’ve seen.
Matt: Aye, and we’re two of the luckiest men alive. Andie’s like a morn in Spring. She’s beautiful both inside and out. She gifts me with her love and she’s helped me find peace. If not for her, I would still be blaming myself for my brother’s death. Of course, I still tease her by calling her ‘Trouble’ sometimes. Do I love making up to her after that!
Mark: Sounds like Lily and Andie will get along just fine. How would I describe Lily…beautiful, brave, strong. When I met her, she was going through a difficult time. All I wanted was to hold her and make her problems and fears go away. The more determined I was to save her, the more determined she was to handle everything herself. It took some persuading but she came around in the end.
Matt: My greatest fear is failing Andie in some way. I cannot imagine a life without her in it. What’s yours?
Mark: My greatest fear would be losing Lily and her son Luke. They’re everything to me. We’ve been through so much together and I want to spend the rest of our lives together making them both happy.
I’ve never lied to Lily. Her late husband was a miserable scoundrel who lied and scammed his way through life. She deserves so much better than that. I’ve vowed to always tell her the truth, no matter what the consequences. Have you ever lied to Andie?
Matt (rubs the back of his neck): I’m ashamed to admit that I have, though in my defence it was more a lie by omission. I told her my mother would only come to Australia if she thought I was engaged to be married. Andie has such a soft heart she agreed to help me. Andie can’t lie to save herself. Our parents believed her because, in spite of everything, she fell in love with me.
Mark (takes a sip of his wine before he answers):The lengths we go to for our ladies, hey? I was happy being a bachelor, watching my mates take the plunge. I convinced myself I was married to my job. It takes a special woman to put up with a cop’s hours.
Matt: Between you and me, bro, I’m one heck of a convert. Before I met Andie, I thought men who married were just suckers for a pretty face. That woman has shown me how wrong I was. Thank goodness! Do you believe in love?
Mark: Yeah, I’m a convert too. I never thought I’d meet the woman who could sweep my feet out from under me. Lily did that and more.
Matt: I’d do anything for Andie. Our next step is moving house. The hard part won’t be Andie’s clothes, that’s for sure. Tools now, that’s another matter. She’s got more tools than most men I know. We have to build a shed as soon as we move to house her new hobby. As for me, I may have to put some of the paintings I’ve collected into storage for a while. Leave room for Andie’s creations. She discovered the Sunday craft markets and she’s begun making decorative things out of wood. Driftwood, the old tree stump we pulled up from our new property, recycled pieces of furniture… Lovely, they are, but big, if you know what I mean. Maybe I’ll build her a gallery to show off her work.
Mark: Lily and I have bought a property up in the Perth Hills close to the rehab centre. Lily’s discovered she has a green thumb and is replanting the gardens at the centre for our friends TJ and Scott. I’m building her a greenhouse to propagate her plants in and a studio where she can paint her scenic canvases. My challenge will be being a father to a teenager I’m only just getting to know. Thank God Luke is a good kid but he’s had a rough time of it, so I have my work cut out for me.
Matt: Good luck with building your relationship. Children are precious.
(They drink their wine. Gales of laughter burst from their spouses and they lean against the bar observing the two women. Mark lightens the mood)
Mark: What is your favourite memory of Andie?
Matt: My first memory of Andie is probably R-rated! But begorra if that woman doesn’t make a man want to sharpen a few tools and put on a hard hat. When we met, she tipped her tray of champagne over me. Accident or not she got my attention. I squatted beside her to pick up a champagne flute and damn, if that woman didn’t present me with the best view. Yeah, I’m a bottom-man through and through, and Andie’s is a peach.
Mark (leans back to admire Lily’s bottom): Oh yes. Lily’s is just perfect. Everything about her is perfect. My strongest memory of her is in the interview room down at the station. She looked like an angel, despite the mess she was in. I never want to see her looking that haunted again, though. Look at her now—isn’t she beautiful with that halo of golden hair and angelic smile? She does have a mischievous side and I do love it when she’s a little naughty. Ah, it looks like they’re coming over. Would you like to join us for dinner?
Matt: I don’t think we’ll be separating our ladies before bedtime! Thanks, love to. Wouldn’t we, Andie?
Andrea de Villiers can’t lie to save herself. But when developer, Matt Mahoney, buys the building she and a friend have established as a safe house in the Melbourne CBD, she decides that protecting The Shelter is more important than her aching heart. She will confront Mr Mahoney, and she will emerge victorious. There are no other options.
But Matt has other plans for Andie, and she soon finds herself ensnared in a web of well-meaning lies and benevolent deceit. To protect the building and the families that depend on her, Andie agrees to play the part of Matt’s fiancée, and play it convincingly.
But lies soon bleed into truth, and what was once a deception starts to feel all too real. Can Andie accomplish her goals and protect The Shelter, without losing her heart to the charming Irish developer?
When Mark Johnson delves deeper into his investigation into the murder of Tiny Watts, and the involvement of a teenage gang with sleazy lawyer Gino Bennetti and his drug world ties, the last thing he expects is to be interviewing Gino’s widow, a woman in a world of trouble.
When her husband is shot and killed, it is both a relief and a disaster. Lily has her son to protect and secrets that run deeper than the scars she bears. Mark Johnson is the last person she wants uncovering those secrets, especially the truth about her son Luke’s involvement in Tiny Watts’s murder.
As the investigation continues and Lily’s wounds begin to heal, she finds the detective easy to trust and the friendship between them blossoms into more. But the secret Lily holds places everyone in very real danger. When it is finally revealed, Lily will lose everything: her son, the man she’s grown to love, her freedom and her life.