The chase was on.
She sat astride a powerful horse as it raced along the dry outback plain. The reins were slack and her heels frequently nudged her mount on, ever faster. For behind her came another rider—a man. She knew not who this man could be. She only knew that he chased her. She could even see a malicious smile on his face as he bore down on her. If she didn’t get away, it would all be over for her.
She could hear the thunder of hooves on the sun-baked earth as the race for life continued. She could see the rust-red dust fly from beneath the animals’ feet. She could feel the horse respond to her rising panic. Her pursuer seemed to be getting ever closer.
"Come on Jayne! You can’t let him catch you," she thought.
She reached for her drink as she rounded a giant ghost gum, barely losing speed or focus. If she could just make it to the river, she would be all right. A quick glance over her shoulder revealed the villain still gaining ground. With dread she realised he was the better rider.
Finally the river came into view, like a safe haven snaking across the arid land. She could feel her pulse racing. Would she make it in time?
"Elise!" She heard someone call in the distance, but she couldn’t look now. She had to keep her eyes on that river. She could hear the other horse right behind her now and felt her breath catch in her throat.
“Not now, Matthew,” she called.
At the river, her horse shied away from the water’s edge, and she sailed over its head. She braced herself, waiting to hear bones splinter and feel agonising pain, but she managed to roll safely aside as she fell onto the grassy bank.
"No! No! Get up Jayne! Run!"
The man rode past, crossed the river and then rode back. He reined in beside her horse and took hold of the bridle as he slid from his own mount. She waited for panic to take over, but found it odd that she felt only frustration. The scoundrel pulled a package from his saddle-bag and walked over to her, his malicious grin still in place.
“Stupid horse.” she dusted herself off. “I would have won if he hadn’t baulked at the water.”
“A deal is a deal,” the man said with a twinkle in his eye. “You said if I beat you to the other side of the river, you would wear a dress. It’s time to stop playing tom-boy.”
“Have it your way,” Jayne snapped, snatching the dress. “I’ll wear it—but only this once.”
“Bah,” Elise said as she slammed the book down on the coffee table. “She tricked me.”
“Who tricked you?” Matthew asked.
Elise reached for her now cold coffee. “Bah,” she said again. “The author, that’s who. Here I am thinking Jayne is about to be murdered by some evil character, and it turns out it was just a race.”
“Right.” He smiled indulgently.
“Now, what did you want, dear? Quickly, because I have to get back there and find out what she is going to do about the dress.”
Elise grinned as she ran her hand over the book cover. “Never mind.”
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