The Heat of the Night

By: Amy Andrews


Luke Hargreaves had never seen such an unholy mess in all his life. Uprooted trees competed for space amidst the smashed and splintered building debris. Dangerous electrical and glass hazards lay strewn everywhere. Only one out of the dozen buildings that made up the five-acre property where the Tropicana Nights had sprawled for forty years had survived intact.

Holy crap. The resort was never going to recover from this.

It was hard to believe standing underneath the perfect untainted blue of a tropical north Queensland sky, listening to the gentle kiss of waves as they lapped at the crescent beach fringing this idyllic tourist spot, that weather could be responsible for such violence.

That the light breeze could build to cyclonic, that the cloudless sky could blacken with ominous intent and the calm ocean could rage and pound.

Sure, cyclones were one of the hazards of living on the northern Australian coastline and the resort had sustained damage in the past from such events that regularly stalked the coast from November to March.

But never like this.

This one had been a monster and Crescent Cove’s number had been up.

A decade in the UK had anaesthetised him to the dangers of tropical storms, but, looking at the destruction now, it was a miracle no one had been killed.

All thanks to Claudia.

Luke’s gaze trekked from the devastated resort to the devastated figure standing on the beach, her back to the ocean as she surveyed the damage. Avery had told him Claudia was taking it all in her stride. But he knew Claudia Davis well. Too well. And her look of hopeless despair was evident even from this distance.

Somehow inside his head, despite the march of time, she’d always been a skinny six-year-old with blonde pigtails and skinned knees. And there was something just as gut-wrenchingly innocent about her today. Her ponytail fluttering in the gentle breeze, her petite frame encased in the God-awful polyester Tropicana uniform that hadn’t changed since the seventies, that damn stupid clipboard she always carried around clutched to her chest.

The intense little wrinkle of her brow as if she was trying to wish it all better from the power of her mind alone.

He sighed. He was not looking forward to this.

He shucked off his shoes and stripped off his socks leaving them at the row of lopsided palm trees that formed a natural demarcation between beach and land. Or what was left of them anyway.

Crescent Cove’s beloved palm-tree avenue, which hugged the long curve of beach, was looking equally devastated. Whole trees had been ripped out by the roots, plucked clean from the ground and thrown around as if they’d been mere matchsticks, some still lying on the path or beach wherever they’d been hurled.

It would take a lot of years to build it back to its former glory.

The hot sun beat down on Luke’s neck, a far cry from chilly London, and he shrugged out of his jacket too. He undid his cuffs and rolled up his sleeves on his business shirt. He turned his phone to silent and slipped it in his back pocket. He didn’t want to be disturbed when he spoke to her and he’d already had three urgent texts from the office.

Taking a deep, fortifying breath, he stepped onto the beach and headed towards the woman he’d known nearly all his life, his footsteps squeaking in the powdery sand.

* * *

Claudia stared at the wreck before her, a sense of helplessness and despair overwhelming her. She should have known that only a cyclone named Luke could cause this much damage.

She refused to give into the harsh burn of tears scalding her eye sockets.

She would not cry.

Crying was for wimps and she was not a wimp. She’d spent a year of her life renovating her beloved family resort and just because it lay in a shambled ruin in front of her didn’t mean it was time to give into a fit of girly histrionics.

She held tight to the comfort of her clipboard. They would recover from this. They had to.

But how? a little voice asked somewhere in the back of her brain, bleating away in time to the distant drone of generators that had filled the air for days now. The same voice she’d been hearing every time she stood on the beach and was confronted by the true horror of the destruction of the only home she’d ever known.

Well, there was the main resort building—the original structure—for a start. Even now its white stucco façade gleamed beneath the full morning sun like a beacon amidst the rubble, its sturdy stone construction having somehow miraculously survived Mother Nature’s fury with only minimal damage.

How, Claudia had no idea.

How had the dinosaur—or White Elephant as Luke had coined it—managed to survive when the newer edition bungalows, made to the highest ever cyclone specifications, had perished?

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