The small town of Hobart in Tasmania has witnessed many beginnings in recent years. At yet one more beginning, the wedding of a friend, Jared Fraser decides it’s time for some fresh beginnings to come his way… And he sets out for a holiday to the US to travel along the Route 66 in a motorhome.
Ivy Bennett thought leaving her boyfriend would be the hard part. It doesn’t take long to figure out how wrong she was. As she struggles with making a new start in her life, the last person she expects to lead her to happiness is a laid-back Australian on holiday.
Then the arrival of family friend Mia Levesque and her boyfriend, Josh, turns Jared’s holidays upside-down when he’s forced to play arbitrator between the two teenagers.
It bugged Jared a little bit, that Ivy was holding back on something that was obviously occupying her mind. And that something had something to do with him, otherwise she would've told him. But then again, there were so many other things she was holding back, and again he reminded himself that it wasn't really any of his business. It didn't make it any easier though because, with every minute he spent with her, he became fonder of the girl driving him along the roads of America. There was no doubt he really enjoyed her company, their banter, her humour, even her cooking skills. He'd become very fond of them as well.
"Gonna tell me?" He tried again.
"There's nothing. Really."
Her smile didn't reach her eyes, and he knew she wasn't honest with him, but he let it go. He didn't want to ruin a perfect day.
When they arrived at their destination, they made a quick dash through the shopping centre before heading towards the campground. The site looked a lot more like what Jared was used to from Australia. The sites were located amongst grass with only a small spot of concrete for the motorhome and the table with two benches. There were trees around in all shapes and sizes, swaying in the breeze. Even at this late hour of the day, he was still able to hear birds chatting in the trees and insects humming between the flowers that dotted the grass. Jagged, snow-capped mountains were all around them and, as on the previous night, he took his time to take some photos. It was an amazing sight, and he had to pinch himself again that he was there.
He turned when he heard Ivy approaching.
"There's a little pool over in the small building next to the showers. I'd give anything for a little dip."
Slowly he raised his eyebrow.
She gently slapped his chest. "What? Aren't you Australians lovers of the water? Wouldn't you like to go swimming?"
He shook his head. "Nope."
A sigh escaped her lips.
"What's holdin' ya back?" he asked.
Her eyebrows shot up. "What's holding me back?"
He simply nodded.
"I've got no bathers."
Then he shrugged. It didn't make sense to him. "Anybody else in there?"
"No." She looked around. "Which doesn't surprise me, because there're not too many people camping here tonight, it seems."
"No one will notice that ya swimmin' in ya bra and knickers."
"Knickers?" She giggled.
Not sure whether this was a language thing or whether he'd offended her, Jared decided to stay quiet.
"Honey, I don't wear knickers. I don't have much money, but enough to buy decent underwear, which we call panties."
Heat rolled over his body and pooled in his groin. He knew! There weren't too many secrets in a small motorhome, and when she'd changed into her clothes that morning, he took a sneak peak. Of course he did. After all, he was only human.
"Wear the panties."
"I can't do that."
Putting some distance between them, he moved back a bit. The conversation rang a bell with him as he remembered this kind of argument between Mark and Sophie. It was the female logic that seemed to defy him.
"Well, in that case, I s'pose you won't go swimmin'."
Hands on hips she came closer. "You're not helping."
"Happy to give ya some of my panties."
She rolled her eyes. "Forget it."
The words weren't even spoken when she turned and stepped into the motorhome. He followed her in.
With no chance to hold back, he had to grin when he saw her in the back of the motorhome half-naked.
"Do you mind?"
His grin got wider. "Actually, no I don't."
"Out," she screamed.
Bursting into laughter, he stepped out.
"Haven't you heard of knocking?"
"Honey blossom, how was I supposed to know ya goin' to strip in there?"
"I said I'd go for a swim."
He shook his head, still laughing, when he sat outside enjoying the scenery. There were a few noises coming from the inside, and he decided he'd be better off not knowing. A few minutes later, she stood in front of him with only a small towel wrapped around her body. At that moment, he was considering the idea that a swim wouldn't be that bad after all.
"If anybody approaches me inappropriately, it's your fault."
"Want me to come with and guard ya from all the bad Americans around?"
But all he heard was a humpf as she stomped away towards the pool. Watching her small body swaying, he thought how bad he could be if he were in there with her.
Ivy slid into the water and swam to the centre of the pool. The water was a perfect temperature, and she relished the cool feel of it over her body. Her gaze went to the pool entrance door a couple of times, although she told herself that was to see whether anybody else was coming in, but deep inside she knew, she was waiting for Jared. Leaning back, she lowered her head under water up to her mouth before she dunked her head under water. Hoping to clear her mind, she stayed like that for a few seconds. Jared was in her head and playing havoc with her emotions. She didn't like it. Okay, truth was, she did like it. She had liked his gaze when she'd undressed to only her underwear. And she had liked it the way he’d stared at her when she'd walked towards the pool. Thanks to the office window, she'd seen his open mouth before he'd rubbed his face with both hands.
The thought of the expression on his face spread warmth through her body, when she suddenly felt a hand on her thigh. She shrieked and whipped around, only to stare into Jared's eyes. His eyelashes were spiked from the water, his hair was plastered to his head, and a big grin spread across his face. He was only inches away, and she curled her arms around his neck as she snuggled into his embrace.
"Will ya keep it down," he said with a laugh.
"You scared me."
He leaned in, angling his head, and nuzzled just beneath her ear. Her body instantly came alive.
"I like American panties," he said as his hands moved further down her body.
Ivy choked back a giggle. "I'm sure they have them in Australia as well."
"Hmm. Can't say I've noticed."
"Liar!" She laughed.
Then he was still, and she tilted her head to meet his gaze. His face had become serious, and his eyes expressed more than fun in his eyes. Something different. Something she would have loved to explore. But it was the would have that made the difference to the situation. They were close to Salt Lake City, and their time together was drawing to an end. She sighed and became aware that she was having the time of her life with this stranger, who always carried a smile on his face. The Australian mate, who laughed at her silly jokes, or even laughed at life's simple pleasures. Her heart ached as part of her wanted this to never end. However, her heart was still bruised, and she knew that she didn't want sleep with Jared. Not out of regret. She was certain, she wouldn't regret a single second with him, but her heart would not cope with the beating afterwards. It would shatter into a thousand pieces the moment she had to say goodbye. This way, it'd be only a few hundred pieces—enough, she told herself, to pick up and put together again over time.
"We shouldn't do this," she heard herself whisper to him. It was like someone else was using her voice, it felt so distant and unreal.
"I know," he replied as he buried his face in the vulnerable spot beneath her ear to place another kiss.
As if on auto pilot, she angled her head again for him. How did he make her feel so good? She sighed, thinking how easily he made her feel attractive like no man had before.
He gently bit her in the shoulder before he moved to look at her. "I know." All of his disappointment was put into the two words.
"Another time, another place—"
"This could've been somethin' really good?" he finished.
She simply nodded. Not sure whether her tears were obvious on her wet face, she didn't make an effort to hold them back.
And she was awarded with another one of those kisses that went straight to her toes.
Yet, he only spoilt her for a brief moment. Jared placed his hands on her hips, and in one smooth motion lifted her up and threw her back into the water. Initially, she wasn't sure what was happening, but when she came back to the surface, she saw his typical grin.
With a pretend pout, she swam away. As expected, Jared came towards her and, as soon as he was close enough, she tried her best to dunk him. It was a fruitless attempt though. He was much stronger than she was. Even though, she had the time of her life being immature for a while, she had fun like she hadn't had in a long time.