Fiona McArthur
Fiona McArthurFiona McArthurFiona McArthurFiona McArthur

Excerpt: The Bush Telegraph

Book 5: Aussie Outback Medical Romance Series

Prologue

Maddy

Madison Locke's heart lifted like the birdsong that woke her that morning – joyous, clamouring, excited. All because of the red, yellow and black scrub, scattered rocks and hillocks, and the blaze of early November sun in the rear-vision mirror as they'd driven out of Longreach. It was barren to some, but to Maddy it felt like home.

Maddy savored the wide gibber plains, the occasional twisty gullies, and the scattering of wallabies and emus they passed as they drove. The tension of leaving one life and moving to another lifted from her shoulders like the roadside eagle she spotted soaring gloriously into the cyan-blue heavens.

Her mood dipped briefly as memories of the last time she'd lived out here flashed through her mind. But despite the past heartache, a feeling of homecoming expanded under her rib cage. She'd enjoyed her years on Lord Howe Island, but who knew she'd feel this way back out here!

'I do love this land,' she murmured, more to herself than to Bridget, who sat next to her in the passenger seat, unusually silent. Maddy glanced at her eleven-year-old daughter, or rather the back of her red pony-tailed head as she pressed her face against the window, staring drearily out.

Poor Bridget. The outback's obvious difference from the tropical paradise of the island had hit hard. But a change would be good to help ease their grief. They both missed Alma like an amputated limb. And surely a year away wasn't too much to ask when Maddy had been working towards this goal since Bridget's birth.

Though she hadn't known then she'd need to return to Spinifex to lay her ghosts to rest. The sudden realization that she wanted to save a town she'd been invisible in, and show that she was worth noticing, had come sometime later.

The town, in far-western Queensland, needed rescuing like Maddy had been rescued. The new multi-million-dollar Wellbeing and Primary Health Center had been considered for possible closure because no one had been found to run it. She'd read the stories of nurse managers coming and going within weeks, leaving the town with reduced resources, threatening the viability of the new center.

She'd heard the town was dying.

People were dying.

As a skilled emergency nurse and qualified nurse practitioner, Maddy could bridge the gap between the nurses and the doctor they didn't have. She could prescribe, diagnose and refer on, and she had strong skills to help keep people alive until the Royal Flying Doctor Service could arrive to fly them out. Even more, she was desperate to be an inspiring role model to her daughter – to show her how to be an independent woman of strength and resilience.

Not a mother who shrank in shame from memories of her younger self. Who ran away from the town she was now squaring up to face.

Maddy straightened her shoulders and forced a smile, for her own sake as well as her daughter's. Once she'd proved her mettle, maybe in a year or so, and Spinifex saw the person she'd become, they could move on to a place that suited them both. Of course, Maddy quietly hoped her daughter would be captured by the distant horizons and never-ending sky by then and appreciate the subtle beauty Maddy was reveling in now as she drove.

But they'd see.

They'd decide together.

And if Spinifex didn't prove to be interesting for Bridget, at least Maddy would know she could do it – she could face her fears.

Everything would be fine.

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