Leaders' Mate (Reynolds Pack #2)By: Becca Van
Jenny Rivers got out of her red, dust-coated four-wheel drive and breathed in the hot yet surprisingly clear air in Outback, New South Wales. She was tired but it was a good tired and yet she felt invigorated. She’d heard about this small nearly non-existent town in her travels and knew she wouldn’t be able to pass up doing the tourist thing and having a look around.
The houses were so sparse it looked like the population couldn’t be more than twenty but she’d seen the sign as she approached and knew that there were a total of sixty-four people living here.
She walked toward John Daly’s art gallery and chuckled over the material used to build it. The corrugated tin was weathered and even rusty in places but it was quaint and more than adequate for an out of the way artist’s gallery.
She sighed at the cooler air as she stepped over the threshold and was a little bewildered because there was no one inside. However, her attention was quickly drawn from that fact when she spotted the paintings hanging on the walls. There had to be hundreds, and they were absolutely amazing. Most of the paintings were landscapes with the sun either rising or setting in the distance, and the magnificence of them took her breath away.
The artist had even done a rendition of the aboriginal sculptures which she’d seen just hours before when she’d driven to the top of the hill approximately twenty minutes outside of Broken Hill. Those statues had felt almost spiritual to her, especially since she had been there at sunrise and seen the way the light had shone upon each figurine, and the way the sun had shone through strategically placed holes in some of the sculptures.
Jenny moved from painting to painting, absorbing the artist’s talent and the magical quality to each picture. She envied John Daly his talent and wished she could make something a quarter as good as these paintings, but she was realistic and knew that she didn’t have an artistic bone in her body. Even her stick figures were…well, crap.
She looked toward the door when she heard a car pull up outside and then smiled when a middle aged man walked in.
“G’day, can I help you with anything?”
“Hi, I’m just looking at the moment. These are all so beautiful.”
“You’re John Daly.”
“Yeah.” He moved around the glass counter and behind it. He was a true Aussie, wearing faded jeans and a long sleeve shirt, no doubt to protect his skin from the searing heat of the sun and harsh Australian desert climate.
“I wish I could buy them all but I’ve been travelling for a few months and am getting strapped for cash.”
“I’ll give you a free original postcard if you spend twenty bucks or more.”
Jenny nodded in acknowledgement and moved to the next painting. All the bigger ones were way out of her price range, and even the smallest ones would be pushing her budget. What she really needed to do was find some work so she could save up cash to be able to continue her exploration of this amazing country. However, when she saw the small rendition of the pure white ghost gum with its stark green leaves surrounded by nothing but red dirt with the eagle sitting on a branch, she knew she wasn’t going to be able to resist. The price tag was over two hundred dollars, and although she knew it was worth every penny she was going to try and bargain for a lower price.
“Do you give discounts for cash payments?”
John eyed her up and down. Jenny had no clue what he was looking for but whatever it was he must have found it because he nodded. “That one’s been sitting on display for nearly twelve months. I’ll give it to you for half price.”
Jenny felt a little guilty over such a low cost but she wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially since she would have to leave without purchasing it otherwise.
“Let me wrap it up for you.” John came around the counter, unhooked the painting from the wall, and then proceeded to wrap the picture in old cloth. “Sorry, we don’t believe in plastic bags or such around here. They’re a menace to the environment and a danger to the local wildlife.”
“Yeah, they should be banned altogether,” Jenny agreed and then handed over the money. “Thank you so much. Is it all right if I take a photo of you with my phone?”