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The Perfect Gift by Mark Stewart
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The Perfect Gift by Mark Stewart
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Synopsis

At twenty six, Naomi has had enough of the way men mistreat her. Deciding a change is required, she applies to be a Jillaroo at the cattle station named the Oasis in outback Australia where she meets Trent, a cowboy and a rodeo champion. From the city of Melbourne to a fast flowing river where Trent has to save Naomi from drowning, love germinates in the middle of a storm. Will Naomi be able to save the cattle station from certain bankruptcy? Can Trent save Naomi from her obsessive ex-boyfriend Brandt? Above all else can Trent unravel the meaning of the perfect gift?

Also by Mark Stewart on obooko:

Kiss on the Bridge by Mark StewartThe Blood Red Rose by Mark StewartHeart Of A Spider by Mark StewartI Know Your Secret by Mark StewartDon't Tell my Secret By Mark Stewart Fire Games. By Mark Stewart


Excerpt:

A YOUNG man boasting a straight back, using powerful deliberate steps marched up to the open casket. For a long moment, he stared at the dead woman lying in the coffin.

Eventually, he lifted his gaze to study the small group who had come together to pay their last respects. The young man’s expression portrayed someone who seemed detached, totally uninterested. His actions dictated the fact he wanted to be somewhere else.

The young man slowly returned his attention back to the viewing. He leaned over staring closely at the old woman, deep in thought. Her face showed no sign of any anguish, she may have encountered throughout her lifetime; her stories gone forever.

A middle-aged woman, fresh tears cascading down over her cheeks, followed slowly in the man’s footsteps. She stood next to him speaking in low whispers.

“Why did you come?”

“I needed to see for myself.” His voice sounded full of scorn, bordering on hatred.

“I repeat my question.”

“Don’t talk to me,” he growled. “In a few minutes I’ll be gone, never to return.” He squared himself to the woman so he could look her in the eyes. “You’ll never have to see or hear of me again.”

“That suits me fine.”

An old man, leaning heavily on a walking stick, shuffled forward. Standing between the two, he whispered. “Not here, not now.”

“Who are you to tell me what to do?” growled the young man, glaring cruel eyes at the old man.

“Jake, can’t you speak nicely?”

“Shut up Bernice, I’ll speak anyway I want.”

“You shouldn’t have come, there’s nothing for you here.”

“I’ll be the judge.”

“I hope you didn’t come for money?” questioned Bernice.

“There is no need for you to know the reason why I came.”

Bernice bowed her head, sobbing quietly. She hugged the book she held tighter for comfort. “I refuse to fight with my only brother.”

“At last, you’re starting to see things my way. I choose what I want and when to do it.”

Bernice glared directly into her brother’s eyes. “Your black suit matches the colour of your nature. Here, before you go, read this. You owe it to mother,” she insisted, shoving the book at him.

“I owe her nothing. I warned her not to stay at the Oasis. She didn’t listen.”

Jake snatched the dull red leather bound book from his sister and threw it onto the floor next to the coffin. He marched past the onlookers to the outside.

Bernice picked the book up, studying the expensive cover for damage. Sighing heavily, she held it tight against her chest. Stepping into the sunlight, Bernice glared at her brother, lighting a cigarette.

“I see you’re into a healthy lifestyle.”

“What’s it to you? Why do you even care?”

“I know you should’ve given mother and father a chance before turning your back on them or the Oasis.”

“Poppycock! I decided, I didn’t want to live in a prison.”

“I’ve never viewed the Oasis as a prison.”

“It’s high time you did.”

“How can I, I’ve always loved the place,” answered Bernice, again shoving the book at him.

“What’s the book?” snarled Jake.

“Every one of mother’s thoughts is recorded in the book.”

“In her memoirs,” corrected Jake. Pulling off his tie, he gave a non-caring shrug of a shoulder.

“Why don’t you read the book for five minutes,” urged Bernice.

The sparkle in her eyes forced Jake to hesitate.

The old man who stood at the coffin emerged from the graveyard quiet funeral chapel.

He stood on the top step, grinning. His furrowed brow depicted he’d seen too much sun over his lifetime.

“Stop smirking,” yelled Jake, lifting his fist into the air. “Old man, if you want to fight, I’m ready.”

“Come, sit in the privacy of the quiet room overlooking the grounds,” hinted Bernice, stepping in his way.

“The only destination I’m interested in is the local hotel for a drink.”

Bernice cleared her throat. “Please, we have much to discuss.” A soft pleasant expression swept her face. Her tone of voice could melt any man’s heart.

Jake slipped out of his pinstriped suit jacket, placing it on his arm.

“I’ll give you five minutes; not a second longer.”

Bernice pointed to a narrow path, leading through the manicured garden to another building not far from the chapel. She climbed the steps and waited for Jake to catch up. The moment they entered the building and walked into the small room, she closed the door.

Leather bound law books each one in mint condition filled the bookcase adjacent to the door. A Tasmanian oak table and three chairs were set up in front of the window. The grey carpet looked new.

“Sit down. I want you to read the first page,” jeered Bernice, shoving the leather-bound book under his nose.

“What if I don’t want to sit?”

“I insist.” Her soft gentle voice, her feminine facial expressions she left on the other side of the door. The tone in her voice now sounded cold, almost hostile.

Jake pulled a second cigarette from his pocket, placing it in his mouth.

Bernice reached out, yanked it from between his lips, throwing it in the small bin next to the table. “You can’t smoke in here,” she scolded.

“Don’t tell me what to do. I need something to settle my nerves. I don’t like it here. I want this moment to be over so I can get back to the city. It’s where I belong. If you stopped to analyze what I just told you for five minutes you’d know I’m right.”

“Is it the reason why you smoke?”

“It is none of your business.”

“I guess it’s a fair comment.”

“I’m enthralled to the back teeth, we finally agree on a second idea.”

“Brother, even though we don’t get on, I’m happy you decided to come. Your presence means a lot to me.”

Jake answered in a flat voice. “I’m thrilled to be here.”

“Why do you have to be so cynical?”

“I’ve told you this before. It’s my business, not yours.”

Bernice’s shoulders slumped. She looked away to hide her tears.

“What did you expect?” queried Jake.

“Couldn’t you have come for a visit at least once in the last twenty years?”

“Tell me, who in their right mind would want to visit the Oasis? The place isn’t exciting.

In fact, it’s an isolated, boring hole in the ground.”

Bernice stared her brother in the eyes.

“It’s a lovely place. If you’d only given it the chance it deserves you might have found it therapeutic. If you came to stay for a week you’d never want to leave.”

“Spare me the grief. It’s a boring, horrible place. I grew up there just like you.”

“We had great times waiting for the leaves to fall off the trees so we could kick them high in the air. Not to mention saying what we thought a cloud resembled or what it might change into as it floated above our heads.”

“If you say,” growled Jake interrupting. “I used to dream every night about leaving the dry, dusty forsaken land. When I left I never looked back.” Glaring at his sister he dropped the book Bernice gave him onto the desktop. “If you had followed me you’d feel the same way I do now. The city’s nightlife made me rich. The city itself is exciting beyond belief.”

Bernice gently picked up the book, thrusting it at his chest. “Read it. You owe the dead woman. If you’ve forgotten who she is, the woman is your mother. Her name is Naomi.”

“Again I tell you I owe her nothing.” Jake glanced at the waste paper bin before lobbing the book through the air. It missed the bin, landing heavily on the floor.

“Maybe missing the bin is an omen,” hinted Bernice.

Jake grunted. Retrieving the book from the carpet he grinned maliciously before successfully throwing it in the bin on his second attempt.

Bernice thrust her knuckles onto her hips. “If this is the last thing I ever say to you, so be it. The city, the money, will never replace the splendor of the Oasis which sits in the middle of the Australian outback. Nothing compares to the morning glory which fringes the white clouds every new day, the birds, the cattle, or the peace the place brings.”

“Forget the wise old words. Tell me one thing before I leave. The old man hobbling up to the coffin, who is he? He resembles the local street bum.”

“He’s no street bum. He came to say a few last words and to relive old memories.”

Bernice walked over, picking the book out of the bin. She cut into the path of her brother, marching for the door. “Sit down and read.” Again she shoved it into his ribs forcing him to hold the book.

“Tell me one good reason why I should read it?”

“I’ve already told you it contains mum’s entire memories.”

“I don’t care,” Jake argued.

“You should.”

“Out there in the middle of Australia, she was never a mother to me. I’m happy I left home at an early age. The city helped me grow up.”

The door to the room quietly opened. A man wearing a grey two-piece suit and a loud tie hanging from his neck walked in.

“Excuse me, Sir, are you Jake Stanton?”

“Who wants to know?”

“I’m the solicitor in charge of the family fortune.”

“Go away, you’re not needed.”

“Sir, the book you are holding has been left to you in the dead woman’s will.”

Jake massaged his temples. “What is it about this stupid book?”

The solicitor lowered his voice, the tone changing from friendly to authoritative

“Before the reading of the will commences, you and your sister must read the diary.

Failure to heed this simple command will see you both automatically cut from the inheritance.”

Jake’s deceitful city nature slipped into overdrive. By kicking the chair across the room he wanted the man to know he wasn’t happy. He pointed directly at his sister’s green eyes.

“I’ll read the first and the last page.”

Opening the leather bound book, Jake commenced reading.