Working as a student midwife in an Australian country hospital is never easy, but Belinda finds more trouble than most.
There's the intern doctor who follows her around like an overgrown puppy, the dangerous local wildlife and her own secrets she must keep. When she finds herself without a place to live, what else can possibly go wrong?
Or is it time for something to go right?
He caught me staring. "Have you never seen a man with hair on his chest before?" he asked testily.
I didn't know what to say. "Not the colour of fire, no," I said finally.
He relented. "Back home in Ireland, it's supposed to be good luck to rub a man's red hair, like a leprechaun." He saw my confusion. "A sort of mythical creature." He took a step closer to me, still shirtless. "Go on."
I was reluctant to touch the man at all, let alone his strange chest hair, but the hope of better luck for the future got the better of me. Besides, I felt I might offend him if I spurned his offer.
I stretched a hand out, lightly stroking the wiry orange hair trailing down his stomach. He pulled away, doubling over. I drew my hand back.
"That tickles," he apologised. His expression turned to a broad smile. "Now, your turn."
It took me a moment to understand what he meant. "But I don't have any chest hair and it wouldn't be red, even if I did."
His smile turned cheeky as he continued. "No chest hair? You expect me to believe that? You must have some insulation, not to have frozen solid in the wind out on the boat today."
I shook my head. "None. Even if I did, it would be too fair to bring you any luck."
I looked away and refilled our whiskey glasses so I didn't have to look at him. I gulped the contents of mine down as quickly as I could.
"Go on." His eyes held a challenge. He turned his back to me and picked up the poker, shifting the logs in the fire to burn better.
The man was a doctor. How many chests had he seen in the course of his profession? What was one more? I shrugged and pulled my t-shirt off. My frozen fingers had been too cold to fasten a bra earlier in the day, so my chest was now as bare as his.
"Holy Mary, Mother of God!" His eyes were as round as two puffed-up blowfish.
The poker clattered to the hearth.
Demelza Carlton has always loved the ocean, but on her first snorkelling trip she found she was afraid of fish.
She has since swum with sea lions, sharks and sea cucumbers and stood on spray drenched cliffs over a seething sea as a seven-metre cyclonic swell surged in, shattering a shipwreck below.
Sensationalist spin? Hardly. She takes a camera with her to photograph such things to share later. She asserts that sharks are camera shy.
Demelza now lives in Perth, Western Australia, the shark attack capital of the world.
The Ocean’s Gift series was her first foray into fiction, followed by her Nightmares trilogy.
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