Driving Her Crazy - By Amy Andrews

PROLOGUE

Sadie Bliss’s breath caught at the emotive image. Wandering through the ritzy New York gallery surrounded by a crowd of A-listers who blinged and glittered so much it hurt her eyes, she was stopped in her tracks by its starkness.

The background murmur of voices and clinking of champagne glasses faded as the world shrank to just the photograph, the centrepiece of the exhibit.

Mortality.

She’d seen it already, of course, in Time magazine, but there was something so much more immediate about it this close. As if it had just been snapped. As if the tragedy were unfolding before her eyes.

She felt as if she were standing in the daunting arid landscape, weighed down by the heat perfectly captured as it shimmered like a mirage from the sand. Smelling the jet fuel from the twisted Black Hawk carcass that she’d seen in the other shots. Hearing the cries of the young soldier as he clutched one bloody hand to his abdomen and reached the other rosary-beaded one into the impossibly blue sky. Calling for someone. God maybe? Or his girlfriend?

Watching his tears turning the grime on his face to muddy tracks. Tasting his despair as life faded from his eyes.

The caption beneath said: Corporal Dwayne Johnson, nineteen, died from fatal wounds before help could arrive.

Goosebumps needling her skin, tears pricking at her eyes brought Sadie back to the here and now. She moved on wishing she’d never been given the coveted ticket to the much anticipated opening night of Kent Nelson’s A Decade of Division. All the pieces snapped from the award-winning photojournalist’s lens were disturbing, but this image, known throughout the world, was particularly harrowing.

A portrait of a young man facing death.

A private moment of anguish.

And although the artist in her appreciated the abstract prettiness of the rosary beads against the bright blue dome of a foreign sky, the image was too intimate—she felt as if she was intruding.

Sadie pushed through the crowd out of the gallery into the sultry June night. She needed a moment. Or two.

ONE

Four months later...

Kent Nelson stood staring across at the view of Darling Harbour, his gaze following the line of the iconic white sails of the Sydney Opera House. He stood with his back to the woman swinging idly in her chair, his good leg planted firmly in front of the other as he leaned into the hand resting high against the floor to ceiling tinted window.

‘So, let me get this straight,’ Tabitha Fox said, tapping her pen on her desk, her bangles jangling, as she too admired the view. Not the one she was used to seeing when she looked towards her windows but a mighty fine one nonetheless. ‘You want to drive several thousand kilometres to take a few photos?’

Kent turned, his ankle twinging as he rested his butt against the glass, and folded his arms across his chest. ‘Yes.’

Tabitha frowned. She’d known Kent a long time, they’d been to uni together about a thousand years ago, even shared a bed for a while, but since the accident in Afghanistan he’d been practically invisible.

Until he’d turned up today wanting to take pictures any staff photographer could take.

‘Okay...why?’

Kent returned her curious gaze with a deliberately blank one of his own. ‘I’m your freelance photographer—it’s what you pay me for.’

Tabitha suppressed a snort. His official status might be freelance photographer for the glossy weekend magazine Sunday On My Mind, but they both knew he’d ‘declined’ every job offered and, she’d bet her significant yearly salary, probably hadn’t taken a photo since the accident.

She narrowed her eyes at him as she tried to see behind the inscrutable expression on his angular face. ‘There are these things called planes. They’re big and metal and don’t ask me how but they fly in the air and get you to where you want to go very quickly.’

A nerve kicked into fibrillation along his jaw line and Kent clenched down hard. ‘I don’t fly,’ he pushed out through tight lips.

The words were quiet but Tabitha felt the full force of their icy blast. Cold enough to freeze vodka. She regarded him for a moment or two as her nimble brain tried to work the situation to her advantage. She drummed her beringed fingers against her desk.

An outback road trip. Local people. The solitude. The joys. The hardships. The copy laid out diary style.

And most importantly, breathtaking vistas capturing the beauty and the terror in full Technicolor shot by a world-renowned, award-winning photographer on his first job since returning from tragedy in