Headache. Fever. Rash.
Stephanie had never been so afraid. Her brother had almost lost his life. As it was the meningitis had cost him limbs—his lower arm, his leg. All his dreams of sporting fame and fortune had been obliterated.
And all because she’d been the one who’d insisted on their trip to the back of beyond—where medical help was hours away.
‘But what about Queenstown, New Zealand? You had a list on that just the other day on your blog.’
Jack interrupted her thoughts.
Frowning, she glanced at him—and registered his frown.
Oh, yes. Her face burned as she suddenly remembered. A schoolfriend had emailed and helped her. She was so close to being caught out right now.
‘Oh, you know—I meant further afield than New Zealand,’ she recovered quickly. ‘I meant Europe.’
‘Mmm…’ he nodded, negotiating an exit onto a different motorway. ‘The travel pieces on your blog are done well. You can tell you’ve spent some time in the places.’
Well, someone had. That person just wasn’t always her.
Tara helped her with the make-up lists, and a few of her other school and uni friends helped her with the destination and restaurant lists. Other stuff she gleaned from the internet.
The truth was that Steffi Leigh was a phony—a caricature of a woman, and not even the author of all the ideas she shared.
So she had to be more careful in answering him. If he knew she faked it—that she got as much help as she did to generate content—he wouldn’t be interested in buying the blog at all.
‘I haven’t covered many destinations outside of Australia,’ she said brightly. ‘I guess that’s something your people could build on if you decide to take it over.’
She fidgeted with her phone, absently rubbing her gloved thumb back and forth over the screen, wishing Tara or Dan would hurry up and text back to let her know all was okay.
‘What about you?’ She flipped the question back at him to fill the lull. ‘What was your most amazing adventure? You must have had so many.’ And, yes, she was envious.
‘It’s a thing in our family to take a year out to travel. Nothing but a backpack and a few hundred dollars. ‘Bye-bye—see you in a year’.’
‘Really? No big money? No five-star hotels?’ she teased.
Wow. Curiosity piqued, she twisted to look at him. ‘Where did you go?’
‘I didn’t travel around as much as my brothers did when they went. I spent most of my time in South East Asia. A little village in Indonesia.’
‘Volunteering,’ he corrected. ‘At an orphanage.’
‘Doing “the charity thing”?’ A tiny thread of jealousy tinted her tone.
‘Is that cynicism I hear from Steffi Leigh? Is it so awful to want to help others?’
Of course not. And cynicism wasn’t what she’d intended. But now he’d heard it the only thing she could do was make a joke of it. ‘So you did your year and now your conscience is salved? You can spend the rest of your life doing the five-star thing?’
‘Answer me this, Ms Five Ways with Ugly Festive Woollens, do you do charity work?’
‘Sure.’ Charity begins at home. But she played up the flippant. ‘A cocktail party. A fundraising dinner. Art auctions. You know how it goes…’
And she was so faking it now. She’d never been part of that wealthy socialite do-gooder scene.
‘Perhaps.’ He glanced at her, his eyes glinting brighter than the sun.
Possibly. Perhaps. Full of the non-committal, wasn’t he?
‘That’s your phone again.’ She grimaced as it rang loudly yet again.
‘You can’t cope with the fact I won’t answer it?’
‘Isn’t it rude?’
‘Isn’t it more rude to sit texting while we’re trying to have a conversation?’ He nodded pointedly at the phone in her hand. ‘You’re the one addicted to your phone. Updating your social media status every two seconds?’
‘I was letting Tara know I’m going to be a little late, otherwise she’d worry. Don’t you check in with family when you travel?’
‘Well, someone wants you now.’
That grim look hardened the line of his mouth. Whoever it was, he was fully into avoidance. And what was the betting it was a woman?
Irritation spurted. ‘What if it’s an emergency?’ she prompted.
‘How can you tell?’
‘Because we have a special ringtone for emergencies.’
For a half-second she gaped at him. ‘You’re making that up.’