Here’s a teaser about how the series starts… For a synopsis, please go to Book 1 – A Life Singular.
I look forward to reading your comments!
First published in Australia in 2013
Copyright © Lorraine Pestell 2021
The moral right of this author has been asserted.
All characters, places and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
For Jackie, Taryn and Ashleigh,
my three amazing iTrack mentees
The author supports two not-for-profit organisations which provide invaluable assistance to Australian children in need:
EdConnect Australia (formerly the School Volunteer Program) (http://EdConnetAustralia.org.au) “We’re harnessing the wisdom and skills of older generations to enrich the learning experience of young people who are at risk of falling by the wayside in an often over-burdened school system.”
The Smith Family (www.thesmithfamily.com.au). “The Smith Family is a children’s charity helping disadvantaged Australian children to get the most out of their education, so they can create better futures for themselves.”
Twenty Years On
‘Y’know what I like about coming here, angel?’
Lynn smiled at her husband’s playful wink. ‘You’re going to say nothing ever changes.’
‘I was,’ Jeff shook his head. ‘How d’you know?’
The black Land Rover Discovery turned into the unmarked lane towards the vast Benloch property’s private entrance, where the couple’s shared observation shone as false as it was true. On the face of things, remarkably little had changed in the twenty-three years since the songwriter and his muse first drove his ageing, rust-bucket of a Ford Fairlane along this narrow track, too fast over the gravel and kicking up dust behind them.
Heavy electric gates rolled aside as soon as the sensor identified the vehicle. Its driver, as ever, couldn’t resist a well-timed gun of the engine. The extra momentum slewed the lumbering beast around the corner to arrive at the barrier, which barely escaped a helping hand from the roo-bar.
‘Well, that’s changed for a start!’ the beauty countered. ‘In the old days, you’d have tried to run me over while I punched in the code.’
In the back of the car, Kierney dug her brother in the ribs. ‘Hey, wake up. We’re here.’
For a moment not understanding where he was, Jet grunted and opened his eyes. He had flown in from the UK that very morning, having started his journey home from Cambridge University some thirty hours earlier.
The lad had spent his first Christmas away from the family, permission for which was negotiated carefully when he found out an exquisite Russian archaeology student was staying in college over the holidays. As it turned out, he confessed to his father over the telephone, the scheme had been an almost total waste of time and he regretted not coming home to Melbourne as planned. The girl hadn’t been anywhere near as exquisite as he had hoped, leaving the young buck to beat a hasty retreat from her room first thing on Boxing Day morning.
The nineteen-year-old sportsman had received a sympathetic hearing from his dad, who must have then shared the juicy snippets of information with his mother, judging by the knowing smile she dealt him later in the day. Jet didn’t mind. He was pleased to be back en famille, even if it did mean his kid sister was on hand to give him a hard time.
Within a few minutes, the neo-Georgian mansion and its selection of outbuildings came into view, and the car slowed to a standstill close to the row of garages. Stretching and groaning as if they had aged fifty years since leaving home, the teenagers opened their doors and slopped out onto the driveway.
‘Grab this, please,’ Lynn asked her son, pointing to a large, black suitcase.
While Kierney lifted the straps of two smaller bags over her shoulder, the young man lifted his parents’ case out of the car as if it weighed next to nothing, his six-foot-four-inch frame beginning to fill out as he headed towards the end of his teens. He carried his own bag in the other hand and a folder of paperwork under one arm, stopping to kiss his grandmother in the doorway as he passed through into the house.
‘Aren’t you tired?’ Marianna asked. ‘You mustn’t know what time it is, dear.’
‘Sorry? What time is it, Grandma, did you say? All the better to eat you with, I s’pose. Nice to see you. Happy Old Year.’
Using the porch wall to steady his own load, a case of assorted fine wines stacked on top of a slab of beer that was warming up way too fast for his liking, Jeff freed a hand to clip the top of the larrikin’s head and leaned over to kiss his slowly-shrinking mother-in-law.
‘Best to just ignore him,’ he told the elegant lady. ‘He thinks he’s funny. We haven’t got the heart to tell him the truth.’
‘Good morning, Jeff,’ the gracious woman laughed. ‘Twenty years already. Can you believe it?’
‘Absolutely not. Feels like forty.’
‘Papá!’ Kierney shrieked from behind him. ‘That’s so mean! You think you’re funny…’
The handsome man twisted his head round and grinned at his daughter. ‘I mean I wish it were forty,’ he quipped.
Once inside, and with everyone suitably greeted and the beer bottles plunged into an esky filled with ice cubes, the Diamond family disappeared straight upstairs to unpack for their New Year celebrations. The air-conditioning system made sure the temperature in the homestead was comfortable, and sparkles of sunlight glistened on the outdoor pool down below, enticing the couple as they stood on the balcony and breathed in the cornucopia of country aromas.
Jeff checked his watch. ‘Are we all having lunch together, d’you think?’ he asked. ‘Or can we just relax for a while?’
To his delight, Lynn stepped closer to wrap her arms around her favourite sex maniac, a suggestive look on her face. She was wearing a new perfume, and it turned him on; just a hint of mystery about the woman he knew so well. He had missed out on their usual morning liaison earlier that day, since mother and daughter had left home before dawn to collect Jet from the airport.
‘I have no idea,’ his wife answered, her hands unbuttoning his shirt and stroking his chest and stomach on their way to his belt.
Jeff kissed her with wanton lips. ‘What are you doing? This is your parents’ house.’
Sighing, Lynn pulled away, standing down from her tiptoes and leaving him crestfallen. ‘You’re right,’ she replied, folding the parted sides of his shirt front over his torso and patting them together. ‘I should go downstairs and help Mum.’
‘Cool,’ he scoffed. ‘Go on then. Don’t let me stop you.’
Strong guitar-playing hands slipped inside his wife’s blouse and began to fondle the underside of her breasts through the silky fabric of her bra. She leant into him, their bodies drawn together by an unseen force.
The billionaire turned around to lock the bedroom door. ‘I’m sick of living dangerously,’ he smiled, seeing her blue eyes flash their approval. ‘Take me to bed, you goddess of perpetual torment.’
Jeff steered his dream girl towards the bed which had been hers since she was fifteen years old, and they made love with an intensity built up over the last two spectacular decades. They had grown together, fused by passion, maturing as lovers, artists and leaders. In fact, their children were now already older than Lynn had been when she first invited her dark-haired mystery man to the family farm for the weekend.
‘How many songs have you brought with you for tomorrow?’ the blonde star asked, caressing his back as they moved in unison.
‘Songs?’ he gasped. ‘Now what are you talking about? Jesus!’
The lithe woman laughed. ‘OK. Sorry I mentioned it.’
‘Too right. Is there something special going on this weekend then?’
Eyes only half open, Jeff arched his back and kissed his wife’s forehead. He loved how she toyed with him this way. Then without warning, he whipped them both over so that he lay on his back, with Lynn’s long, golden hair falling over her shoulders and breasts.
‘Can you believe it’s twenty years?’ she asked between moans of feverish delight.
‘Nope. I still remember being in this room for the first time. Don’t know why, but it almost feels like we’re taking more of a risk now. Can I make you scream like I did back then?’
‘I hope so,’ Lynn sighed, lying down onto her man’s stomach and feeling an orgasm closing in.
‘Scream so your mum and dad can hear,’ the musician urged, his breath hot on her face. ‘Scream loud enough for them to know how much you love me.’
‘Oh, I do love you. More every day. I’ve loved you forever.’
Imbibing his wife’s pleasure with all his senses, the forty-three-year-old came in a huge rush moments afterwards, locked in a soulful kiss. They lay motionless for several minutes, each lost in memories of their time together, their hands idly wandering over each other’s tingling flesh.
‘Two,’ the rock star announced, breaking the silence.
Lynn glanced across. ‘Two songs? Damn! I’ve only got one.’
‘No worries, angel. Par for the course,’ he teased. ‘I’m used to it. I had four but dumped a couple ’cause that would’ve been just too embarrassing for you.’
The beauty sat up and dealt her husband’s chest a spirited slap. ‘It’s quality not quantity, mate. Anyway, I thought we might disappear to the dam tomorrow morning. Early, if we can get away with it. Would you like that?’
Jeff rolled his eyes in ecstasy and squeezed the champion’s tight obliques. ‘Would I like it? Ah, lemme think on that for a second…’
‘I don’t want to take things for granted,’ Lynn shrugged, ‘even after twenty years.’
‘No?’ the songwriter laughed, easing her gorgeous form onto the mattress and heading towards the bathroom. ‘Go right ahead, angel. Take me for granted. I’ve been waiting a long time to be taken for granted. I’m all for new experiences at my time of life.’
Lynn smiled. She was ecstatic to see her husband so contented. She knew how much it meant to him that the Fabulous Foursome were together for their special occasion. He had gained an extra spring in his step as their year’s work commitments were gradually crossed off the schedule, and a glint had returned to his all-seeing eyes. 1996 was set to be a phenomenal year for the whole family. Every year had been so, and each more phenomenal than the last.
Downstairs, Kierney had gone in search of her cousin, Jazz. She soon found her lazing by the pool along with the younger of her two brothers. Having spent time with each other over Christmas, there was little news to catch up on, except that Jet had arrived home. They lapped up the dark-haired girl’s tall tales about her brother’s many romantic escapades.
True to the Dyson family tradition of assigning apt nicknames as children, Jet had grown into his early and it hadn’t let him down yet. Ryan “Jet” Diamond was Bart and Marianna’s eldest grandchild, followed closely by Sonny, Bart Junior’s eldest son. Bruce was next in line after Kierney, leaving Jarradie “Jazz” as the youngest, only recently turning the corner into her teens.
Already a prodigious tennis player in her own right, Jazz lived vicariously through the exploits of the willowy, eighteen-year-old gipsy, Kierney. They had recently been told that a sixth grandchild was expected in six months’ time; the first baby for Lynn’s much younger sister, Anna. It was exciting to think of a new arrival after so long, and the two girls swapped name ideas, hoping it would buck the trend of male firstborns.
By the time the anniversary couple had changed and reached the pool, almost the whole clan was assembled. The only missing person was Bart Senior, the head of the Dyson dynasty and the man largely responsible for putting Australia at the top of the sporting world. Even now, at sixty-three years of age, his dedication to the Olympic movement and his determination for the national team to succeed meant his family rarely saw him, even during the holiday season.
‘So, Mum…’ Lynn asked. ‘What would you like us to do? Can I help with lunch?’
‘Shortly, dear,’ Marianna responded. ‘You guys relax for a bit. There’s not much left to do.’
‘Congrats, you guys,’ said Lynn’s elder brother, who had moved over to sit with the billionaire singer-songwriter. ‘A day early, I know, but happy anniversary, mate.’
‘Cheers, Junior,’ Jeff nodded, impersonating his father-in-law’s booming voice with surprising accuracy. ‘Remarkable achievement.’
Frolicking in the water, the shoal of teenagers turned as one, erupting into raucous laughter when they realised they had been fooled. Lynn came over to greet her brother with a kiss and to receive her share of the congratulations. Sinking onto a vacant sun-lounger between the two men, she opened her book and feigned ignorance of the major milestone.
‘Come on, sis’,’ the footballer pressed. ‘Tell us what it feels like to be an old married woman!’
‘It’s great, thanks,’ the stunning athlete grinned, surveying the happy scene. ‘Where’s Jetto?’
‘Oh, I expect he’s fallen asleep upstairs, dear,’ Marianna posited. ‘We’ll wake him before lunch. He’ll be starving after such a long journey.’
Jeff looked over towards the pool, hoping to catch his daughter’s eye. She was too far away to hear the conversation, unable to share his furtive humour. There could be any number of reasons for the young man’s temporary absence, virtually none of which were suitable for sharing with their grandmother.
Lynn shook her head in mock exasperation. ‘He’ll be checking his e-mail,’ she replied, watching a repeat performance from the handsome lothario at her code for the cricketer arranging hot dates for the remainder of his Australian visit.
That evening, the Dyson family hosted a New Year’s Eve party in the function centre behind the grand homestead, spilling out into the courtyard gardens. The event was a regular fixture in the family’s calendar well before the forever couple tied the knot, predominately as a thank-you to their household and farm workers. However, since their elder daughter’s marriage to a bad-boy dubbed “The Australian Elvis”, it had been adapted to embrace their anniversary as well.
The Diamonds had vetoed the customary extravagance this year, preferring a simple, subdued celebration where they need not be the centre of attention for once. 1995 had been an outstanding year for the superstars, and they had attended enough swanky parties the world over to be thoroughly bored with dressing up to the nines and revelling in sycophantic praise.
The family was also conscious of Junior’s recent divorce. Despite an amicable separation from Julie, the forever couple was sensitive to the fact that he was still adjusting to sole parenthood. He had admitted to Jeff only the previous week how disappointed he was in himself for failing to make his marriage last.
With the house bursting at the seams with leftover party guests the following morning, the hustle and bustle of a breakfast barbecue was too much for many heads and stomachs, including Jeff’s. Staring into the bathroom mirror, he examined his bloodshot eyes and the extra grey hairs he could have sworn had appeared overnight on his head, chest and arms. He watched as his reflection rubbed the tattoo on its right pectoral muscle and glanced down at the real thing on his left.
‘Happy anniversary, mate,’ he wished the bloke in the mirror, dipping his razor into the hot water.
Off to Coldwater Creek this morning, the celebrity’s fuzzy mind reminded itself. ¡Excelente!
This secluded setting on the Dysons’ Victorian farm had always been the couple’s special place. They had passed many happy hours there, writing songs together, waxing lyrical about the meaning of life and worshipping each other’s body in splendid isolation. Hangover notwithstanding, the vision of his dream girl lying naked on a picnic rug beside the deep dam aroused him in an instant.
Lynn frowned and shook her head at his obvious excitement when the superstar returned to the bedroom. ‘Part of you’s already left for the dam, I see.’
‘Maybe,’ he grinned, throwing on a T-shirt and some shorts. ‘S’pose we have to get through breakfast first, yet again. You’re always so mean to me, making me wait like this…’
His wife finished tying her hair up, flicking her ponytail as she crossed the room. They met halfway between the dressing table and the bed and kissed, but she snatched her fingers away as he grabbed her hand and pressed it against his predicament.
‘The suspense is killing you. I know and I’m sorry. It’ll be worth the wait, I promise.’
‘Jeez, woman! You always say that,’ Jeff moaned, putting on a sad face. ‘One year we’ll have to go straight over there as soon as we wake up and see if you’re right. If the sex is still good, I’ll finally know I’ve been duped all these years.’
‘And if it’s not?’ the blonde temptress asked.
The world-changer shook his head, knowing full well that sex between them could never be anything but wonderful. ‘Yeah, well… That’s where my argument sort of collapses.’
Breakfast over and heads beginning to clear, Lynn and Jeff piled their regular collection of chattels into a ute and picked their way over the deep, dry ruts. They followed the paddocks’ fence-lines until they reached Coldwater Creek, as they had in all weathers since they first met. An extensive catalogue of hit records had been incubated here, and many a grandiose scheme was hatched under the blazing summer sun. Moreover, they were fairly sure their son was conceived in this idyllic spot, or at least they chose to think so.
Twenty years of marriage was a laudable stint, the lovers agreed in the crisp country air. Twenty years with the same partner, never once wanting anyone else, was no mean feat, particularly surrounded by the showbusiness world’s unrelenting supply of temptations.
In all this time, they had never grown tired of the songs one wrote for the other, nor the hare-brained ideas their partnership spawned. They had no doubt that sharing such uncomplicated moments in this natural oasis had helped the hardworking celebrities shoulder the pressure of staying on top of their games.
For this particular special occasion, Jeff submitted one slightly ironic lyric and another more optimistic and romantic. These original pieces had been set to music and recorded before Christmas by an up-and-coming British singer whom he had signed to their label, and the prolific songwriter was pleased with the results.
And for her husband’s gift, Lynn’s theme was also nostalgia, with heartfelt messages and a simple melody. She produced the song in their studio while Jeff had been away in Europe in the weeks prior to the hectic holiday season. While his lover sang, picking out a lean accompaniment on the acoustic guitar, the happiest man on Earth lay back in the sun and listened with his eyes closed and his heart wide open.
Making love in the fresh air, with always the faint possibility of being discovered by a farm worker or some local Daundwurrung or Woirurrung people intent on a cooling swim, the pair of Diamonds immersed themselves in their private commemoration. Ahead was another mammoth twelve months which would see the family dispersed ever further across the globe. Regardless, they were looking forward to the new year with great excitement for the challenges upon which all four were embarking.
Jet would shortly head back to the UK to continue his second year at Cambridge, and Kierney was impatient to start her first semester at Sydney University. Turning eighteen this coming February, their daughter was itching to obtain her driving licence, which in her mind was the last obstacle standing between her and independence.
Several successful artists were blocked into Lynn’s diary to record new albums and to have their music crafted by one of the most highly respected arranger-producers in the business. She was also due to complete an ambitious film project as a gift for her husband. It was supposed to have been finished in time for their special occasion. Given how hectic the year had turned out however, the personal endeavour had fallen behind schedule for worthy reasons.
And if these commitments didn’t render her quite busy enough, now the children were practically self-sufficient, she was keen to explore new ways of influencing the country’s governing classes beyond the years of effective activism afforded to the Diamonds’ social justice agenda by her very public profile.
And for Jeff, this would be yet another year when too many hours would be spent on aeroplanes or locked securely behind hotel room doors in every corner of the globe. There would be no touring at least, since the “Live On Earth” concert series had finally concluded in Los Angeles a month ago to enormous acclaim.
Instead, he hoped to devote more effort to the peace negotiations he was spearheading in the Middle East, Northern Ireland and his beloved Africa, while in the background working on a plan to pare down the travelling and to focus on developing both his golf swing and his wife’s career.
‘The change’ll be good for us, I think,’ his beautiful best friend ventured, stroking the hairs on her stallion’s chest and abdomen. ‘Change is as good as a rest, they say. Do you need a rest?’
‘Sex is as good as a rest,’ the larrikin quipped, keeping his eyes closed and relishing the undivided attention. ‘Old Italian proverb.’
The patient woman sniffed. ‘Of course it is. Attributed to?’ she asked, only too aware that she was massaging his ego as much as his skin. ‘Rudolf Valentino? Or Casanova?’
‘That’d make it an old Spanish proverb.’
Taking his beautiful best friend by surprise, the know-all grabbed her wandering hand and pulled it to his lips. Both sat up and embraced once more for luck, knowing that time was passing and their presence would be required back at the house.
Lynn’s appreciative smile ignited his passions again. ‘So I suppose you were Casanova in a former life too?’ she murmured between kisses.
‘’Xpect so,’ Jeff shrugged with more than a hint of macho conceit. ‘If you say so, angel.’
The couple dressed and gathered up the rug and water bottles, ready to return everything to the ute’s sun-baked tray. Lynn slotted the old guitar into its case, where it would stay until their next visit, while her husband turned the car round. Time to yield to the present and their precious offspring. No matter how many times they came to this unspoilt spot, it never lost its ability to nourish their souls.
‘I am getting tired now,’ the billionaire philanthropist confided, bumping the tyres over crumbling sandy furrows until they reached the lane that led to the his in-laws’ homestead. ‘It feels like I’ve been around for three hundred years already. I reckon I’m turning into a self-satisfied fat cat at last.’
The blonde laughed without inhibition. If there was something she knew for sure, it was that her indefatigable world-changer was simply incapable of turning into the complacent egotist whose spectre had tormented him all these years.
‘Yeah, right,’ she teased. ‘So you’re going to cut up your frequent flyer card? I’d pay a lot of money to see that. What makes you think I want you hanging round the house anyway?’
Jeff chuckled. ‘Oh, is that how it is now, after twenty years?’ he returned the favour, swinging the vehicle into the garage. ‘Easy fixed! I’ll hang around someone else’s house instead.’
The corners of his wife’s mouth drooped. ‘Alright then. You win, Felix.’
With their picnic gear stowed back on the garage shelving and the guitar swinging between their joined hands, the devoted pair trudged across the gravel path and entered the luxurious farmhouse through the rear door, preparing to reunite with the rest of the clan.
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