Better with You

By: Lexxie Couper

Chapter One


Charlie Baynard put down the phone and reached for his gun.

His gut, never really an organ for reacting to the situations he found himself in, knotted. Of course it would now, given the call he’d just taken.

A call he had never expected to receive, from a life long in his past.

He was retired, damn it.

He now existed as a simple cop in a simple Outback town. That was it.

He was on no one’s radar. He was, as far as people went, a non-event. A cop in a small town way out whoop whoop, with a population of just over five hundred people, one pub and not a single set of traffic lights.

He’d picked this life, this existence, after realizing he’d lost all taste for the job he’d been trained for. He’d been good at the job—very, very good—but after an order that had made his gut roil, and a betrayal that had torn what was left of his soul to shreds, he’d called it quits.

Seventeen years had been long enough.

Seventeen years and enough red on his hands to dye the ocean.

He’d walked away. Handed in his non-existent badge. Told the director to never call him again.

Changed his name. Erased who he’d once been.

Pulled a few strings with a secret contact to land the job as Wallaby Ridge’s senior constable.

Moved.

And that had been it.

He’d kept his finger on the pulse of the industry, as it were, without drawing any attention to himself. Seventeen years of habits were hard to break. But apart from knowing things no Outback cop should, things about politicians, world leaders, movers and shakers, media moguls, oil tycoons, tyrants and dictators, he was a simple bloke who lived by two simple rules—keep his small town peaceful and free of ruckus, and be there for his mates whenever they needed him.

His mates.

Tightening his grip around the Glock’s butt, Charlie thought of his mates.

What would the doc, Evan and Ryan think of the call he’d just taken?

Ryan suspected something about him, but even the heli-musterer would be shocked if he knew the truth.

The truth.

Not for four years.

Fuck a bloody duck, when was the last time Charlie Baynard had dealt in truth?

Not since he’d become Charlie Baynard, that was for certain.

Dropping his stare to the standard-issue weapon in his hand, he drew a slow breath. Lowered his heart rate. The fact his heart rate was elevated told him he’d been out of the game for too long. There was a time when the only way Dani De Vries had caused his heart rate to increase was when she was buck naked, moaning his name as they played the life-or-death game that was their job. Getting a call to say she was heading his way now…

His heart beat faster at the thought, despite the deep breaths he was pulling.

Fuck.

Fuck.

His wife was in Australia.

An image of Dani filled Charlie’s head. The last time he’d been in her company, the last time they’d been face-to-face. She’d been in a black lace bra, matching G-string, stilettoes and nothing else. Her hair had been a mess of pitch-black tousled waves, her lipstick smudged by his lips. An unsettling combination of pleasure and contempt had smoldered in her light blue eyes. The Benchmade Mini Griptilian—her blade of choice for close-quarter combat—dripped beads of blood redder than her lipstick.

His blood.

She’d tried to kill him that day.

Tried. Failed.

Knowing Dani the way he did, he was pretty certain she was still holding a grudge about that.

And now she was in the country and, according to his contact at ASIO, heading his way.

His contact didn’t know why.

Turning the Glock over in his hand, Charlie let out a slow breath.

There were two reasons he could think of for Dani De Vries looking for him.

One—someone had put a hit out on him and she’d gladly taken the job.

Two—she was bored and had decided it was time to pay him a visit. And Dani didn’t do visits in the traditional sense.

“Fuck it,” he muttered, rising to his feet and sliding his gun into its holster.

If Dani was coming after him, he had two options to stay breathing. One of them involved leaving Wallaby Ridge. The other option would likely result in someone experiencing a lot of pain and exposure. Regardless of that, he liked Wallaby Ridge too much to leave.

It was his home now.

His mates were here. Matt, Ryan and Evan.