Over the course of the past year, I’ve been working on a series of books with the incredible Lexxie Couper. If you know Lexxie, you know she’s the unofficial queen of Australia. No woman ever loved her country more. Seriously. Her pajamas sport the Australian flag! One very late night (for me) and early morning (for Lex), we decided it would be fun to write a series about Aussies and Americans who fall for each other, but who–for a variety of crazy reasons–sort of cross wires along the way. The result was the Foreign Affairs series. The first two books, Misplaced Princess and Misplaced Cowboy, released last summer. They revolve around Hunter and Dylan Sullivan, twin stockman who own and run Farpoint Creek Station in Australia, and the two American city girls they fall in love with.
I’d written quite a few wild, wild west stories in the past, but all of them were set in the good old U.S. of A. Sadly (for me), Misplaced Princess takes place exclusively Down Under. Lexxie spent a lot of time teaching me the lingo and the proper dialect a true Aussie stockman would use. Because first and foremost, they do not refer to themselves as cowboys in Oz. Oh…and they don’t work on ranches, they’re stations. And the men who work on the station aren’t ranch hands, they’re jackaroos! Ack. See what I mean. It was like I was learning an entirely new language. And I loved it! Lexxie is an excellent, fun teacher.
“You’re Dylan’s Annie? From New York?” The fact she was here wasn’t sinking into his thick skull as quickly as it should.
“Yes. Is he okay? Is there a reason why he sent you to pick me up? He’s not ill, is he?”
Hunter shook his head. “No. He’s not sick. He’s on his way to see you.” Hunter glanced at his watch. “His plane will land at JFK in about eighteen hours.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I. I’d say you two crossed wires somewhere. Ordinarily I’d suggest we head to the terminal, hit a bar and make a plan about where to go from here, but I suspect you don’t want to go back there with all those cameramen breathing down your neck.”
Annie shook her head.
“Is there anyone you can call?”
She repeated the headshake. “I dropped my phone in the toilet when I was texting Dylan to find out where he was. It’s officially dead.”
Hunter bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. The poor woman was having a rough day.
“Is there somewhere more private we can hide out?” she asked. “Until I figure out what I’m supposed to do now.”
Hunter pointed down the corridor. “I guess we could sit in the chopper.”
He grasped the handles on both her suitcases and began dragging them as he walked toward the runway. He was pleased when Annie followed rather than run in the opposite direction.
“Dylan and I came to the airport in a helicopter.”
Annie gave him a funny look. “You have a thing against cars?”
“You have any idea how big Australia is? We live damn near in the middle of it, love. We could either fly the chopper to the airport in four or five hours or drive to Sydney in just under a dozen. I can’t afford to be away from work for so long, so it was a pretty easy decision. I flew Dylan here early this morning and intend to fly home later today.”
“This can’t be happening,” Annie muttered behind him. “How could this all get so fucked up?”
Hunter picked up the bags and carried them down the stairs to the tarmac, where his chopper sat waiting.
A flight mechanic approached. “You’ve got a full tank, Mr. Sullivan, and I gave everything a quick inspection. It’s ready to roll. Just radio the air traffic control room when you’re ready for takeoff.”
“Thanks, mate. Will do.”
Hunter threw her luggage in the back. Annie paused when he opened the passenger door of the helicopter for her. “Who flies this?”
“Jesus. Are you serious?”
Hunter suppressed a grin. Her American accent was cute. “Yes, Annie. I’m a fully qualified helicopter pilot. Not that you need to worry. We’re just hiding out in here, right?”
Annie bit her lip as she looked up at the propellers nervously. Rather than reply, she tried to climb into the passenger seat. The devil prodded him forward and he gave her a boost, using her arse for leverage. It was firm, tight. It took all this strength not to give it a good squeeze.
She startled when he placed his hands on her rear end, but accepted the momentum he provided to claim her seat. “Thanks.” Her slightly narrowed eyes and sardonic tone almost made him laugh.
“My pleasure.” He crossed in front of the chopper and took his place behind the controls. “So I guess we need to figure out how you ended up here when Dylan said he was going there.”
“He didn’t say he was going to New York. We were chatting on IM and he said something like ‘put your money where your mouth is’. Then he said Qantas, Sydney Airport, November twentieth, and gave me a time. I booked the flight, even though the arrival time he listed was a bit off, but I figured that’s because airlines are constantly changing their schedules.”
Hunter frowned. “I was there when he sent that stupid— Ahem.” He cleared his throat uncomfortably. “I saw him send you the flight details—his flight details—in an email about an hour after that. He forwarded you the information from the airline.”
Annie looked around the helicopter and he wondered what she was thinking. “I never got that email.”
“Well, he sent it.” Hunter didn’t want to mention that satellite reception on Farpoint Creek was sketchy at best. There was a very good chance Dylan’s email was still bouncing around somewhere in space.
Annie sighed. “I swear to you I never got it. I just said ‘challenge accepted’ or ‘game on’ or something in our chat.”
He nodded. “Yeah, Dylan took that to mean you were excited about his visit. Bloody dickhead.”
“But I meant I was coming here. I thought he’d invited me to Australia.”
“Well, I don’t mean to criticize, love, but what woman accepts an invitation to visit a bloke she’s never met in a foreign country and only gives herself four days to prepare? Didn’t your family and friends try to talk you out of this?”
Annie’s shoulders straightened and he could see she was pissed off. “I know Dylan.”
He rolled his eyes. “A few emails and IMs and—”
“We’ve been corresponding for months. Plus we’ve Skyped and talked on the phone and exchanged pictures. I feel like I do know him.”
“And I suppose from that kiss you gave me back in the terminal, you didn’t intend for this to be just a friendly visit.”
She bit her lip again. Hunter wished he didn’t find the gesture so cute. “That’s none of your business.”
He let her off the hook. Her blush answered his question just fine. “What’s the deal with the paparazzi? You an actress or something?”
“Dylan didn’t tell you about my family?”
Hunter shook his head. “Nope. Dylan didn’t share much about you at all. Showed me a photo of you a few weeks ago. Besides that and the fact you don’t read your emails carefully, I don’t know a thing about you.” Hunter didn’t mention the soul mate comment.
“I’m a journalist. I work for a magazine in New York.”
“Didn’t realize journalists were so popular in the States.”
She flashed him a dirty look. “It’s not my job that interests the press, it’s my name. I’m Annie Prince.”
He shook his head. “I’m still not following you.”
Hunter recognized that name even less. “Nope. Haven’t got a bloody clue what you’re talking about.”
“I guess Monet was right. She said there had to be somewhere on the planet where I could live incognito. Go Australia.” She raised one fist in a cheer for his country.
“I don’t know who this Monet is, but that’s not exactly true. You’re in Sydney and there are cameramen following you.”
She blew out a long, frustrated breath. “Yeah. My family owns and operates a huge conglomeration of newspapers, magazines, hotels and other properties. Our net worth is in the billions. For some insane reason, this makes us interesting to people. Not to mention the fact my dad is a bit of a glory hound, constantly doing stuff to draw attention to himself. My two sisters have followed in his footsteps and now star on the most inane, idiotic reality series ever to air on television. And I suppose everyone expects me to be the same, to want the same spotlight cast on my life.”
“But you don’t?”
“God no. Did you see me pose for photos? Your ranch in the middle of the desert actually sounds like paradise.”
Hunter scoffed. “I think you’re the first woman, besides my mother, to ever feel that way. And it’s not a ranch. It’s a station.”
Annie ignored his correction. Maybe she was used to it. He’d heard Dylan tell her a time or two when he’d accidentally eavesdropped on their chats. She let out a wobbly sigh. “What the hell am I going to do now?”
Hunter studied her desolate face and was sorry Dylan hadn’t invited her for a visit. The idea of Annie spending a week or two on their family’s cattle station was very appealing.
Then he recalled Dylan’s comment. She could be my soul mate. He couldn’t poach on his brother’s girl.
“Seems to me your answer’s simple. Go back inside and catch the next flight out of Sydney. Chances are it won’t leave until tomorrow, so you could book a hotel in the city and take in a couple of the sights. No reason the trip has to be a total waste. You’ll only be a day or so behind Dylan. Once you get back, the two of you can take New York by storm. No harm, no foul.”
Annie didn’t respond for several moments. Finally she released another sigh, this one less wobbly. “I can’t go back to New York right away.”
Hunter frowned. “Why not? If you’re worried about those wankers with the cameras, I can talk to security, get you an escort.”
She shook her head. “It’s not that. I’m here for work as well. On an assignment for the magazine. It was the only way I could miss two weeks of work. I haven’t been there long enough to build up any real vacation time.”
“What’s your assignment?”
“I’m writing a four-part series about life on a cattle station. And I’m supposed to interview a real live Aussie cowboy.”
She looked at him hopefully—and he knew he was in trouble.
“I’m a stockman, Annie. We’re called stockmen over here, or grazier, if we’re being more formal. Which we’re not.”
“Oh. Okay. Then I need to shadow a stockman.”
She lifted one shoulder as if to ask why not. “I’d intended to interview Dylan, but he’s not here and likely won’t be for a while. The first piece is due in three days and once I start, I sort of need to stick with the same cow…er, stockman.”
She really expected him to take her back to the cattle station? Let her follow him around for two weeks watching him work? How was he supposed to keep his hands off her if she was under his roof and his bloody brother was half a world away?
Dylan better get his arse back Down Under, and quick.
Otherwise, this was not going to end well.
Yesterday, the third book in the series, Misplaced Lessons released. Mercifully, for me, this book is set primarily in Chicago. Amy Wesson, the school teacher, on Farpoint Creek Station has always dreamed of traveling to America. When an opportunity to do a “life switch” with American teacher, Harper Shaw, prevents itself, Amy jumps at the chance. But a case of mistake identity sends her straight into the arms…and bed…of Harper’s older brother, Andrew.
An Excerpt From: MISPLACED LESSONS
Copyright © MARI CARR & LEXXIE COUPER, 2013
All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
“I’m not going to hurt you.” His words sounded ridiculous even to himself. He’d gagged her and was now straddling her naked body, holding her legs to the mattress with his own after tying her to the bed. Regardless of who she was or why she was there, she’d be insane not to be afraid of his intentions.
She twisted her head, trying to dislodge the shirt from her mouth.
“If I take it out, do you promise not to scream?”
She blinked rapidly then nodded her assent.
He pulled the material away, ready to replace it if she broke her vow.
“No.” Andrew reached up to touch his tender cheek, his fingers finding the raised welts she’d put there with her long nails. “Who are you?”
Her breathing was labored, coming in hard pants after their fight. Even so, her gaze hardened and he knew she wouldn’t talk.
Something inside him cracked. He’d been traveling for days, stealing only a couple hours sleep here and there. This woman had broken into his house. She had some nerve acting like he was the villain. By God, he’d make her talk.
“I’ll give you one more chance to answer my question. Tell me who you are or you won’t like the consequences.”
She stilled beneath him, her intelligent gaze sizing him up. He should climb off the bed and call the cops. If he was in his right mind, that’s exactly what he’d do. Having her arrested would certainly be the kinder response. As it was, he wasn’t in the mood to be merciful.
Instead of answering, she threw his question back at him. “Who are you?”
“None of your business. Give me your name. Now.”
She bit her lip nervously. “I’m Amy.”
Amy? Mike’s Amy?
Andrew leaned back on his haunches, his mind whirling. Had Mike set this up? Past experience had obviously convinced his friend he’d never consent to a blind date. But would Mike actually go so far as to throw this woman into his bed?
Andrew knew the answer. It was more than possible. It was actually quite probable. Mike had the extra key to the house. He knew Harper was away and Andrew was back in town.
Andrew recalled a lifetime of little surprises his best friend had tossed his way. The high-class call girl who’d shown up at his door on his twenty-fifth birthday. The so-called conference that had really turned out to be an impromptu weekend trip to Vegas, complete with nonstop gambling and a private show with five of the hottest strippers Andrew had ever seen. Or this past year when Mike had managed to score tickets to the Super Bowl, but told Andrew they were headed to Indianapolis for his cousin’s bachelor party. He’d let Andrew bitch for three hours in the car about missing the big game, only letting him in on the surprise when they’d reached the entrance to the stadium.
Mike was the master of the unexpected, so it wasn’t farfetched that his friend would go to this extreme in a hookup. It would also explain his friend’s easy capitulation when he refused to go on a date with the woman earlier. Mike didn’t push the issue because he knew Amy was already here.
He grinned as his annoyance lifted. Amy was beautiful and feisty, with a hot accent. Australian, if he wasn’t mistaken, though he’d need to hear her say more before he could be sure. His best friend knew he was a sucker for a girl with an accent. For the second time in one night, it looked like Mike was going to be able to say, “I told you so.”
And since Mike had gone to so much trouble, far be it from Andrew to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Misplaced Lessons is available at Ellora’s Cave, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Now, how about a contest? Amy in Misplaced Lessons has always dreamed of traveling. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? I’ll come back in a couple days and choose one winner who will receive a copy of Misplaced Princess (or if you already have that) any ebook from my backlist.