Title: Currawong Creek
Author: Jennifer Scoullar
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction
Finalist in the RWA Romantic Book of the Year Award.
Call it intuition, call it magic – call it love. Something is calling Clare home.
Brisbane lawyer Clare Mitchell leads a structured, orderly life. That is, until she finds herself the unlikely guardian of a small, troubled boy. In desperation, Clare takes Jack to stay at Currawong Creek, her grandfather’s horse stud in the foothills of the beautiful Bunya Mountains.
Here life moves at a different pace, and for Clare it feels like coming home. Her granddad adores having them there, Jack loves the animals, and Clare finds herself falling hard for the handsome local vet.
But trouble is coming. The Pyramid Mining Company threatens to destroy the land Clare loves – and with it, her newfound happiness.
Friday morning. Clare finished the interview and sized up her client. Too thin, junky thin. Red eyes, more than a hint of the shakes and she couldn’t stop sniffing.
‘I advise you to plead guilty,’ said Clare. ‘We’ll present a plea in mitigation and ask for a bond or a community-based order. It will be better all round.’ This week she’d seen too many cases just like this one. The young woman was going to make a bad impression on the court without even opening her mouth.
‘Can we nick out for a smoke?’
The boyfriend was already out the door, and the girl wasn’t far behind. Clare started making notes on the file, then looked up. The little boy was still sitting there. Clare walked to the door and called after the two figures retreating down the hall. ‘Haven’t you forgotten something?’
The boy regarded her with solemn eyes, peeking from beneath cartoon-perfect lashes. An uncommonly pretty child despite his snotty nose and soiled, shabby clothes.
‘Mummy and Daddy will be back soon.’ Clare’s voice was bright and encouraging, but the boy’s expression didn’t change.
‘Daddy’s dead,’ he said in a small voice. His bottom lip began to quiver.
Oh. Tiredness and guilt washed over her, along with a feeling that she couldn’t name. A vague dissatisfaction that had troubled her all week, each time she’d looked out of her narrow window to the view of the stunted coolabah tree, and beyond it, the barren car park. A missing. Or perhaps a wishing for something indefinable Clare averted her gaze both from the tree and the boy and rifled through the files on the desk. What on earth was his name? It was hard to concentrate with him looking at her like that. She glanced down at the interview sheet. The mother was Taylor Brown. But that was it, no mention of the child at all.
‘What’s your name?’ she asked.
He didn’t answer. He just maintained that unsettling stare. It didn’t matter. How long could it take to smoke a cigarette? Clare turned back to her work, reviewing her record of the interview so far. It was clear that the plea in mitigation would be simple. Taylor had a depressingly familiar tale: growing up in a series of broken homes, women’s refuges and foster care placements. She ticked all the boxes for a history of domestic and sexual abuse – and she was a heroin addict, although currently on methadone replacement. Clare reread the charge sheet. Theft of a bull terrier puppy. Cute, really. The rest wasn’t so cute. Around three o’clock in the morning of May the second, police had stopped and searched her vehicle on Wickham Street in the Valley. They’d found cannabis, money and various stolen items. The boy had been unrestrained in the front seat. Clare looked up and surprised herself by imagining him with a puppy on his lap. Would the puppy have made him laugh? Put a smile on his serious face? Had Taylor wanted to see that smile?
Time ticked by … her next appointment would be here soon. Clare day-dreamed out the grimy window. A bird sat in her poor excuse for a tree. She’d never seen a bird there before. A currawong, big and black, with bright yellow eyes and startling white crescents on its wings. It looked straight at her and uttered a wild, ringing cry. The call sounded disturbingly out of place in a city carpark. With a wrench Clare returned her attention to the boy. What was Taylor’s mobile number? The digits on the legal aid form were a series of uncertain scratches. A quick glance over the rest of the largely incomplete application, revealed her to be barely literate. Under date-of-birth Taylor had laboriously written twenty. Only twenty years old. Jesus, how old could she have been when she had the kid? Clare began to key the numbers into her phone. There were only seven of them. Oh god. Taylor had listed only seven numbers.
‘Hey, come back here,’ said Clare, as the little boy got down from the too-big chair and went to the door. ‘Where do you think you’re going?’
The child turned to face her. Pale blue eyes. A tangled lock of golden hair fell into his eyes. He pushed it aside with a thin hand and said, ‘Mummy.’ He tugged at the doorknob.
The phone rang. Clare automatically reached for it, then let her hand fall and hurried for the door instead. She guided him back to the chair, impulsively putting her hands around his waist and lifting him into the seat. He was light as a feather. She kneeled in front of him on the old blue carpet. ‘What’s your name?’
His mouth moved to shape a word, ever so slowly. ‘Jack,’ he said at last.
The word was no more than a sigh. If her face hadn’t been so close to his, her green eyes so close to his wide blue ones, she would have missed it. Clare loved the name Jack. It was her father’s name, a father that she’d recently lost, way too early, to cancer.
‘Stay,’ she said, and reached once more for the phone. It stopped ringing. A knock came at the door. Thank goodness. ‘Here’s Mummy now,’ said Clare.
But it wasn’t Taylor. It was Debbie, the legal aid centre’s one and only secretary. ‘Just letting you know, Clare, your ten-thirty’s here.’
‘Could you have a look outside please?’ said Clare. ‘For a young woman, tall and thin, with long brown hair.’ She nodded towards the boy. ‘His mother, and a man. They went for a cigarette.’
Debbie retreated from the room, looking doubtful. She returned a few minutes later, shaking her head. ‘Sorry. No sign.’
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
Universal link: https://books2read.com/CurrawongCreek
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?
Currawong Creek is a heart-warming story of hope, sacrifice and the ultimate triumph of love. It’s a perfect book to lose yourself in, while snuggling up on cold day.
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Runs November 1 – 30.
Drawing will be held on December 1.
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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