Title: Journey’s End
Author: Jennifer Scoullar
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction
Sometimes a tree change might be just what you need.
From the bestselling author of Brumby’s Run, Currawong Creek and Turtle Reef comes an inspiring story of family, friendship and the healing power of love.
When Sydney botanist Kim Sullivan and her husband inherit Journey’s End, a rundown farm high on the Great Eastern Escarpment, they dream of one day restoring it to its natural state. Ten years later, however, Kim is tragically widowed. Selling up is the only practical option, so she and her children head to the mountains to organise the sale. The last thing Kim expects is for Journey’s End to cast its wild spell on them all.
The family decides to stay, and Kim forges on with plans to rewild the property, propagating plants and acquiring a menagerie of native animals. But wayward wildlife, hostile farmers and her own lingering grief make the task seem hopeless. That is until she meets the mysterious Taj, a man who has a way with animals. Kim begins to feel that she might find love again. But Taj has his own tragic past – one that could drive a wedge between them that cannot be overcome …
The day Kim Sullivan’s world ended was disguised as an ordinary Wednesday. She took the kids to school and did some shopping. She came home, put on the washing machine and went to make her bed. Scout poked his head out from behind the pillows. Kim picked up the old border terrier, and set him down on the carpet.
He whined, stiff legs scrabbling to climb back up. On the third attempt he succeeded and nestled down on Connor’s jumper, the one she slept with when he was away. His scent was in the weave. Scout had always been more Connor’s than hers. ‘We won’t have to make do with his jumper for much longer.’ Kim sat down beside the dog. ‘We’ll have the real thing home on Sunday.’
Home on Sunday. After years of deployments in war-torn Afghanistan, Connor would be home – home for good. It was hard to believe, a prospect too sweet to be true.
‘Daddy will be back from the army in four sleeps,’ Abbey had said on their way to school that morning, counting out the days on her fingers. ‘It’s going to be my show and tell. Mummy, do you think it will be a good one?’
‘The best ever.’
Jake had rolled his eyes. ‘What would preps know about the army? And Dad’s job is supposed to be a secret. You shouldn’t go telling everybody, Abbey. The Taliban might hear.’
‘I don’t think the Taliban will be listening to Abbey’s show and tell.’
Jake hadn’t looked convinced. He worried so much about his father. Well, he didn’t have to worry anymore. In four sleeps Connor would be home and their new life would begin.
Her phone rang from the bedside table. Of course – that’s what she’d come in to find in the first place. ‘Hi Daisy. What’s up?’
‘How about I pick your kids up from school this arvo and bring them back to my place? Grace wants to show Abbey her new rabbit, Stuart’s been bugging me about having Jake over, and you’re always so tailspin busy before Connor gets back. What are you doing now? Cleaning behind the fridge?’
Kim laughed. She’d already done that. ‘I want everything to be perfect. You know how it is when they come home.’
‘Steve’s lucky if I make the bed,’ said Daisy. ‘What’s the point, when the first thing we do is mess it up again? And I’m too scared to look behind our fridge. I think there’s a dead mouse.’
Kim shifted her feet as a flush of heat passed through her. Daisy was right. Nothing came close to that coming-home-night passion, or waking up in Connor’s arms for the first time in months, or going to sleep knowing the man she loved was safe beside her. She sank down on the bed, dizzy with wanting.
‘Are you lot still heading off to your bush block?’ Daisy asked.
‘Just as soon as we can get away.’
‘Sounds like heaven,’ said Daisy.
That’s exactly what it would be. Connor’s grandfather had left him two hundred hectares of land at Tingo, six hours north of Sydney, high on the Great Escarpment. Journey’s End ‒ a property in his family for generations, although nobody had lived there for years. She could see it now. Stunning views across the mountains of Tarringtops National Park. Sharing a beer with Connor on the farmhouse porch, reconnecting. Watching the kids play on the old willow peppermint, its broad low branches just made for climbing. Talking about their future.
They had grand plans to restore the rundown farm to its natural state. It had been a shared dream since their first visit there, though more hers, perhaps, than Connor’s. She was the botanist. He was more interested in the wildlife.
But Kim had quickly fallen pregnant. Connor was promoted and went on the first of many overseas postings. And it had remained just that – a dream. When Jake was two, she started teaching horticulture at Campbelltown College, and then Abbey came along. Their lives were too full, too busy. ‘One day we’ll take off,’ Connor would say. ‘Use our saved leave and just go bush.’ That day was almost upon them.
Kim wouldn’t have heard the knock if Scout hadn’t barked. She glanced in the dressing-table mirror, running her fingers through her blonde hair then smoothing her shirt. Good enough. She opened the front door and blinked in surprise. Captain Blake stood on the step. He looked different somehow: sallow and slump-shouldered. Scout appeared at her heels, yapping in short, angry bursts.
‘Is Connor home early?’ she asked. ‘Should I pick him up from the airport?’
He shook his head. A cold stone formed in her chest and slipped down to her belly. ‘Is he alright?’
‘Let’s talk inside.’ He rubbed his forehead with his fingers, and she knew. The terrible truth showed in his swift breath, his guarded eyes, how he spoke – the fact he was there at all.
Kim put a hand to her heart. Panic claimed her, like she was walking too close to a cliff. Pain too. Her legs gave way, while white noise drowned out the Captain’s voice. Not Connor. Not her brave, handsome, clever Connor. Her best friend, her lover, her soulmate. What about their life together, their future? What about Abbey and Jake? She swayed alarmingly as the ground lurched beneath her. What about her? How would she live?
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
Universal link: https://books2read.com/JourneysEnd
November is a time to be thankful. What are you most thankful for this year?
I’m most thankful for my happy, healthy family and the privilege of being able to write stories for a living.
Why is your featured book worth snuggling up to?
“Journey's End is a breathtaking, can't-put-it-down experience, filled with true-to-life characters (including the animals!), an enthralling setting and a suspenseful plot with a perfect Happily Ever After ending. This book is right near the top of my "Best I've ever read" list. Highly recommended. Five stars.”
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Jennifer Scoullar writes page-turning fiction about the land, people and wildlife that she loves. She has always harboured a deep appreciation and respect for the natural world. Jennifer lives with her family in on a beautiful farm in the mountains that was left to her by her father. Horses have always been her passion. Read her books now to discover why Jennifer Scoullar is one of Australia’s favourite storytellers!
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