Daniel Bradford leaned his shoulder against the doorframe of Kookaburra’s Bar & Grill and settled in to watch the ruckus at the northern end of Main Street. Observing the redhead deal with the townspeople had become a daily ritual, as long as he wasn’t too close to the kerfuffle.
She’d only been in town two weeks and already she had the committee on her back. The war council, Dan called them, and Swallow’s Fall Community Spirit committee members weren’t easy to appease once a person put their noses out of joint.
The redhead stood in front of her pink B&B facing the small group, shoulders set, arms at her side, chin raised. She had pluck, he had to give her that.
He crossed his arms over his chest and ran his gaze down the length of the one-street town, thanking his lucky stars he’d been born even-tempered, fair-minded and patient.
Another glorious day in the Snowy Mountains. The November sun high in the sky. The soft breeze from Mount Kosciuszko blowing the dust off the multi-coloured rooftops and swaying the boughs of the claret ash trees lining the street. Swallow’s Fall: population ninety-nine and rising but it wasn’t the population surge on Dan’s mind.
‘Mornin’, Mrs Tam.’ Dan lifted a hand to the owner of the petrol station as she waddled by on the other side of the street, her black hair knotted in its customary bun and her apron tied tight around what remained of her waist. Nice old girl. Not interested in interfering, but happy to keep an eye on those who were. He indicated the B&B with a nod. ‘You going on down?’
‘Wouldn’t miss it. There’s talk of a meeting.’
‘Yeah,’ Dan said under his breath, ‘I bet there is.’
Six years he’d waited to get Kookaburra’s Bar & Grill ready for change. An iconic, colonial-style double-storey building standing proudly in the centre of Main Street with cast-iron balustrades and columns at its main doors. Open early, closing late: that was Dan’s vision for the future, once he’d got the seven bedrooms renovated upstairs. The town committee didn’t know he’d rekindled his long-term plans for the hotel and he wasn’t about to tell them. Timing was everything in Swallow’s Fall. Or it had been, before the redhead arrived.
Not so many visitors now summer was almost upon them, just those wanting farm stays and walking holidays but they’d seen more tourists the last couple of winters— the best season for the Snowy Mountains. People winding their way from the beaches in the east to the ski slopes in the west, with Swallow’s Fall sitting patiently in the middle, waiting for trade. With Dan’s hotel, it wouldn’t only be the bar that prospered. The town would be given a rejuvenating kick too. If he got the war council on his side.
What he didn’t understand was why pretty little Miss English Chick had chosen this remote township. She was as misplaced around here as a snowflake in the outback. Twenty-seven months the B&B had been up for sale without a nibble, then suddenly, Red was lugging expensive tools from her brand-new 4WD into the seen-better-days house. And now she was paying the price for not adhering to small-town rules. Something Dan understood. It had taken him two years to gain acceptance himself.
‘I got that ice cream made for your restaurant, Daniel. Chocolate bubble gum flavour.’ Mrs Tam shook her finger at him, batting her eyelashes in her gentle manner. ‘Wasn’t easy.’
Dan uncrossed his arms and thumped a hand against his chest. ‘You’re the best woman in town but don’t tell the other ladies I said it. It’ll be on the menu tonight.’
She tilted her head coyly. ‘Anything to help a handsome man, Daniel. Anything at all.’
Dan smiled, and shoved his hands into his trouser pockets. Damned if he knew how it worked, but people seemed to shine when he smiled at them, and mostly, Dan liked smiling.
He waved Mrs Tam on her way, and followed her progress.
A grand little house, the B&B, even if it was a pink-puke colour. Weatherboard, with a grey metal roof that gleamed with the lustre of a tarnished silver sixpence when the sun rose high in the sky. Three bedrooms, two on the top floor for guests and one on ground level. A veranda ran along the front, shading two picture-perfect windows either side of a bright red door. And if a person were to park their backside on one of the locally made rocking chairs the redhead had bought from the Granger’s Art and Craft Centre, they’d have a panoramic view of not only Main Street, but also the boulder-studded hillside behind the town, protecting Swallow’s Fall from inclement easterlies.
‘What’s going on?’
Dan looked over his shoulder as Ethan Granger, the town’s vet, came up the steps from the street and onto the wooden walkway that served the shopping side of Main Street.
‘Same as yesterday and the day before,’ Dan said, indicating the B&B with a jut of his chin
Ethan stopped beside Dan and let his two-year-old son…
The House at the Bottom of the Hill
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Out in paperback (Australia & New Zealand only) and eBook (worldwide)
on 19th December – in time for Christmas holidays.
"We may not have everything in life we want but at least we can have it all in a book." ~ Jennie Jones