7 February 2015

Book Spotlight: Max by C.J, Duggan | Chapter One

C.J. Duggan

Summer #2.5

Coming February 15th 2015

Max Henry thought he’d left the dusty flats of Ballan behind, but when the past slams into his present, suddenly there is no escaping – even if he wanted to.

Melanie Sheehan didn’t set out to be a liar, but her last lie landed her in big trouble. Now Mel must suffer a harsh consequence – she’s not allowed out of her father’s sight.

No friends, no parties, no life.

Since impeccably good behaviour is now all she’s about, her dad, renowned Ballan local ‘Bluey’ Sheehan, is about to finally cut Mel some slack. The catch? While he heads out of town on business, she has to stay at the Onslow Hotel, and he’s entrusting Max Henry, the eldest son of Bluey’s best mate, to look out for her.

He just doesn’t know it yet.

Max, the new head barman at the Onslow Hotel, is the one boy Mel has been crushing on since forever. At a time when Mel plans to go on the straight and narrow, she is about to tell the biggest lie of all. Will Max be able to handle the fiery farm girl or should he be considered the last boy in Onslow to trust?

Special Offer

In honour of the up-coming release of Max, you can now pre-order exclusively through iBooks for just $0.99! But this is only for a limited time, so don't miss your chance to get your hands on a bargain.

If you pre-order you will not only be securing a special price, you will also get exclusive sneak peek chapters of my steamy New Adult Romance PARADISE CITY, coming April 28th. Pre-Order HERE!

First Look at Max

Chapter One

I had the dream again.

A dusty dirt road, illuminated by headlights: the only things visible were the flickering insects and wayward bunnies that frantically scurried out of our path. Loud, thunderous music belted out of the stereo, barely drowning out our raised voices and laughter. You would think that the cloak of night combined with the numbed senses from a few drinks at the local would make you less aware of the crunching, sliding dirt under the tyres of our car, but still I was aware, so aware. It was the one thing I remembered most; above all other noises was the sound of the sliding wheels against gravel, that and the sound of popping, breaking glass. Particles that danced in the air almost as if in slow motion as we tumbled, turned, fell, barely able to scream, breathe or believe this was happening. It was, except nothing was really slow; it all had happened so fast, and now we were powerless to stop it. Long gone was the laughter, the music, the road. Instead, irreverent pandemonium was replaced with an eerie silence, pierced only by the sinister hiss of heat escaping the crumpled carcass of twisted metal. It was the final sound I heard before the darkness took me, blacker than night ever was.


Jolted awake by my dad’s voice, it took me a bleary-eyed minute to get my bearings and realise I wasn’t back in my dreams; the passenger seat I now found myself in was very much today, and not the one from that night. I pressed my hand against the dash, shifting to straighten in my seat as I wearily blinked my eyes, encrusted with sleep, yawning.

My dad’s low chuckle neared as he slid into the cabin of our car.

“What?” I asked, stretching my arms to the sky with a groan.

My dad’s eyes fixed to the top of my hair; no words were needed as his smirk told an unspoken story of amusement.

“What?” I snapped, pushing myself upright and flipping down the sun visor to access the mirror.

Bloody hell, I looked like a nightmare. My hair worked into a restless sleep, the heat of the day giving it a nice little frizz, with matted-sweaty-fringe look. Beautiful.

“Bad dream?” my dad enquired, as he started up the car.

Mostly I would share my kooky, offbeat dreams about my teeth falling out, or that feeling of falling off a cliff, but whenever it came to the same recurring dream back to that night, that was one I would never share with my dad. It was too steeped in painful reality, one I never wanted to address, the one subject that caused a world of hurt that would cloud my dad’s steely blue eyes. I hated seeing it there, hated knowing that I was responsible for it. It was a look that haunted my dreams: Dad’s eyes looking down on me in the hospital, the vision of his massive hands clasped together, his elbows on my mattress as if he was in silent prayer. The memory of this man, this six-foot-three, giant of a man reduced to that of a small, slumped figure next to me. In all my seventeen years, I had never seen my dad’s shoulders slumped in defeat, never seen the well of tears in his eyes as he reached for my hand. It was a memory I tried to push deep, deep down, until of course it inevitably resurfaced itself in my dreams. I wondered if guilt did that, forced these bad memories into my subconscious. Maybe if I did talk about the things that haunted me, they might just go away. But as I looked into my dad’s bright, sparkly eyes, I once again found myself pushing those demons deep down.

“I dreamt that I was being loaded into a car and taken somewhere against my will.” I tried for light-hearted, when really there was a none-too-subtle snark to my tone.

Dad winced as he placed on his sunnies, probably in an effort to hide his eyes from me.

“That definitely sounds like a nightmare,” he agreed.

“No kidding.”

It was very much a nightmare, a living one. Since that infamous night twelve months ago, ever since I was discharged from hospital, Dad treated me as if I were made of glass, and the doting and caring nature was great, for the first few days. I understood his fear; hell, I felt really awful about it, but when his fear morphed into refusing to give me a life, well, that was getting harder and harder to deal with. I would have sooner he just yelled and screamed at me, made me cry. Instead, my fate was much worse: grounded most definitely, but even when that sentence subsided the trust issue still remained; I was not to be out of his sight. No parties, no friends, no life, aside from the typical one I was experiencing. Travelling with my dad to the shearing sheds, helping him out on the farm and going on road trips to sheep and cattle sales that he would have a hand in auctioning. It was a dusty, hot, boring existence and one my dad very well might have loved, but me … not so much.

I slumped back into my seat, blowing out a weary breath.

“Where are you dragging me to this time?”

“I told you, we’re heading to Onslow,” he said, pulling up to a stop at a T intersection and giving way to a massive grain truck.

“Onslow? Where the bloody hell is Onslow?” I asked, not even trying to hide my sneer. I had a vague recollection of Dad explaining this to me, but I must have simply zoned out seeing as I wasn’t really interested in what backward town we might hit next.

“Onslow, eh? Some crusty, dusty-arsed hick town in the middle of nowhere at a guess,” I said, as I glared out the window at the yellow, dry paddocks that whizzed on by.

A map hit my lap, the crumpled, torn one Dad kept shelved in his sun visor.

“Not exactly,” he said. “Go on, check it out.”

I cocked my brow, picking up the coffee-stained crinkled paper with the tip of my fingers as if it were something putrid.

Dad sighed, as if his patience was wearing thin. He snatched it off me, his gaze flicking from the road to the map and back before finding what he was looking for.
“There,” he said, pointing to a circle on the map. “Onslow.”

I feigned interest as I looked over the map. There was a lot of blue, a lot of green, a lot of bumpy curves that I assumed were hills that went on and on.

“Not dusty, not flat, not dry,” Dad said with a small smile.

“Okaaaay,” I said.

So this was a first, maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all, something different.

“It’s nestled in the valley of the Perry Ranges, amazing lake system, brings lots of tourists there for the holiday seasons.”

Oh, this was sounding better and better, I couldn’t even remember the last time I had gone on a holiday.

“Max says it’s real beautiful.”

My head snapped toward Dad.

What did he just say?


Surely he didn’t mean the Max, my Max, the Max from Ballan who I had secretly loved and lusted over all my life until he broke my heart when he moved away, and for all things, ‘further education’. Pfft, whatever!

“Max Henry, lives there now.”

Good God, it was my Max, the one and only Max Henry. My heart started to slam against my chest. I straightened in my seat suddenly at full attention and with keen interest in our new destination.

“Does he know we’re coming?”

Will we see him? Will I get a chance to talk to him? What had it been a year, two? Whatever it was, it felt like a lifetime.

Dad laughed, rubbing the stubble of his chin in thought. “Not exactly, but he will.”

“How so?”

“Well, because we’re going to be crashing at his place,” he said, glancing over to catch my widened stare. “He just doesn’t know it yet.”

Oh. My. God.

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