In the time before border free travel in the European Union, my travelling companion and I decided to avail ourselves of the shuttle bus in the delightful Austrian ski town of Kitzbuhel.
We’d been on the road for a while and needed to take care of some personal chores, and there was a Laundromat in the main part of town, a three-minute bus ride away.
We loaded two backpacks with a substantial amount of laundry, and waited for the shuttle bus. And waited. And waited.
By the time it arrived, quite a crowd had built up, and, no offense to the lovely Austrian people, they have no clue about queuing etiquette.
We’d been nudged to the back of the swirling mass of potential passengers and couldn’t really see much of the bus at all. The crowd surged and we went with them, scrambling on board and securing the last two free seats on the bus.
It was much bigger than we’d expected, and remarkably well maintained. Usually the free shuttles in ski resorts are utilitarian at best, but this was bordering on luxurious.
The bus took off and we settled back. I did glance out the window, slightly surprised that the bus was skirting around the town instead of going through it, but we’d only arrived the night before and had no real idea of the route.
But by the time ten minutes had passed I’d begun to suspect something might be wrong. A quick question to my travelling companion revealed, he too, was a little uneasy.
Uneasiness turned to worry when the bus made right turn onto an autobahn and accelerated to 120kph.
“I don’t think this is the right bus,” my companion whispered.
“Of course it’s not the right bus, you idiot,” I snapped back. “Why did you tell me to get on it?”
“I didn’t tell you anything…” and it was on!
You’ll only get the full bizarre effect of this heated argument, if you realise the entire conversation was conducted in a hissed undertone because we were both so embarrassed we didn’t dare raise our voices.
I suspect from the smirks of the people around us, we needn’t have bothered. They could tell.
Finally, after much nudging…well, okay vicious digging in the ribs, and I have sharp elbows, my companion moved up the front to ask the bus driver where we going. Except a) he wasn’t allowed to talk to us and b) even if he were, he didn’t speak English.
Finally, a kind Austrian who did speak English…which is why I forgave him for occasionally biting his lip to keep himself from laughing out loud, told us that we were on an express coach, dirty laundry on our backs, headed for Switzerland, passing non-stop through the border three hours away.
I think I cried. We hadn’t brought our passports with us and we had very little money, no idea of the fare and no clue at all about what to do next.
The man who’d spoken to us moved to the front of the bus, and managed to engage the driver in a brief conversation. It was decided that the bus would stop just on the Austrian side of the border, and the driver would radio ahead and have the bus travelling the return route pick us up and take us back to Kitzbuhel.
They even waived the fare. We were so grateful we didn’t really mind the burst of laughter and the cheerful, slightly overenthusiastic farewells as we clambered down at the unexpected halt.
Six hours later, weary and a lot wiser, we returned to our accommodation. We never did get the laundry done!
And in that spirit, my top five destinations in the world.
- Venice-because cliché or not, I was there in Spring and it was as beautiful and enchanting as you would imagine.
- Quebec City- This one surprised me. I don’t really know what I expected, but I fell in love with it. Inside the city walls, it is magical, and outside them, the St Laurent River, the Montmorency Falls and the Isle D’Orleans are beautiful. If you haven’t been, consider a visit.
- Paris- Everyone knows why.
- Lyons-Beautiful city with a Roman amphitheatre you can sit in and eat your lunch.
- Petra in Jordan-This one is the top of my bucket list. The stone city, the hidden, narrow entrance. I’ve seen so many pictures, read so many books and I want to go.
For someone who would definitely list travel as a major interest, I live remarkably close to where I grew up, on the shores of Lake Macquarie NSW Australia. Although I never intended to be a cat lady, I live with four, wildly eccentric feline overlords. Occasionally, between demands to be fed and have doors opened for them, they allow me a few minutes writing time.
When I can find a substitute minion they will condescend to let serve them, I can often be found on a ski slope somewhere in the world.
I use my addiction to travel to inspire my writing, so you’ll see stories set in Venice, Stonehenge, Austria and many of the other places I’ve seen and loved. But for my cowboy stories, I come back home to Australia, and our unique landscape and the rugged men who work there.
The Cowboy Takeover is my latest release. The idea for the novella came from a news article about graziers (ranchers for American readers) protesting an open-cut mine project. The spokesperson for the people who opposed the destruction of the land, was the epitome of the Australian Cowboy, tall, lean and determined to protect the land and the people he loved. The story unfolded in my head from there. I added a woman who represented the mining company, included an additional complication in the form of an environmentally inclined surveyor, piled on the conflict and the sexual tension and let the sparks set all three on fire.
In spite of the heat, the place looked green and well maintained. Cattle, clustered together in the shade cast by overhanging pepper trees, turned their heads to look at her. Even to a complete city girl, it was obvious they were in good condition. Kyson Brown might have been a negligent correspondent, but he knew his job.
Not that his competence would make any difference to the outcome. The decision had been made. All she had to do was make sure he was aware of it.
She switched off the engine, grabbed the yellow envelope from the seat beside her and stepped out into a wall of fiery air. Her sweat-dampened silk shirt dried instantly.
“Who the hell are you?” The deep voice came from behind her. She gasped, choked on a mouthful of dust and succumbed to an uncontrollable fit of coughing.
When she finally caught her breath, her head swam and tears blurred her vision. She turned around to see a long, blue shape that resolved itself into a man. Maddie gasped again. This was not just any man. This was an escapee from her most private dreams. From the top of his cowboy hat clad head, to his chiseled, handsome face, wide shoulders, narrow hips and powerful legs, he was the epitome of male perfection.
His bad-tempered rasp fractured the illusion. “I asked you who you are and why in the hell you’re on my property.” He waved a hand dismissively. “Doesn’t matter. Bugger off back to whatever city you came from.”
“My name is Madeline Nelmes,” Maddie said, taken aback by his aggressive tone. If he was this annoyed before he knew who she was or why she was there, it was going to get very unpleasant once she told him. “My firm, O’Kane Legal Services, is acting on behalf of the owners. Lyall Holdings—”
“I know who owns the bloody property,” he interrupted. “And I know why you’re here.”
Maddie’s fists clenched involuntarily. “Then asking me was a waste of time, wasn’t it?” She knew she sounded snarky. Tough. She was hot and tired and it was his fault.
If her attitude offended him, he didn’t show it. One broad shoulder lifted. “Less of a waste than your trip out here. There’ll be no open-cut mine on Harwood Downs.”
Maddie blew out an exasperated breath and stepped around the back of the car toward him. All she was supposed to do was hand over the documentation, person to person. She wasn’t here to argue about the inevitable.
“Regardless of what you might believe, this mine is going ahead. I’ve driven five hundred kilometers in this rotten, awful, stinking heat because you couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge receipt of the notifications we’ve sent you. The surveyor arrives tomorrow. Please see he has whatever access and accommodation he needs.”
He folded his arms across his chest. “The surveyor can turn around and go straight back. This land will be mined over my dead body.”
Maddie looked him up and down. It was a damn fine body, but the stubborn mind that controlled it was reflected in the hard line of his lips, and the blue eyes, that even in these absurd temperatures, were icy enough to send a chill up her spine.
“You don’t own the property.” She tried for a conciliatory tone. She looked around at the neat buildings, the sturdy fences and the well-fed animals. “Lyall Holdings has already signed an agreement with BRX Mining. That won’t change, but maybe I can negotiate some compensation for—”
“I don’t want compensation. I want…”
Maddie didn’t hear the rest of the sentence. She knew he was speaking, because his lips moved, but a wavy, clear wall suddenly appeared in front of him, distorting everything. She dragged her hand across her eyes, but the blurriness increased. The heat bore down on her. Her stomach churned and she tried to call out, but the sound, like her vision, was lost in the encroaching darkness.
Up next, I’m working on a romantic suspense, Tangled Web, about a rogue cop, who enters the world of the Dark Web to track down a killer. In his quest he has to make compromises that leave deep stains on his soul. He fears even the growing affection he feels for his new neighbor will never wash them clean.
I have two Claiming the Cowboys key rings to give away to a commenter. I have a bad habit of checking out the ending of a book after I’ve read the first chapter. That’s only one of many…I roll up strips of any paper I can lay my hands on…people can always tell where I’ve been because I leave them lying around. What are some of your bad habits? The ones you’re prepared to own up to in public?