Until Giorgio, an Italian migrant fisherman sent to Australia in disgrace. The moment their eyes meet across the fish market, he knows Lucy's the girl for him. If it weren't for his reputation as a rake, he's certain he could catch more than just her eye - perhaps even her heart, too.
A tale of crabs, cricket bats and catching your heart's desire in Jazz Age Western Australia.
I smelled smoke faintly on the wind and knew Mum wasn't the only one brewing up a morning cup of tea.
When my basket was empty, I slipped under the lines of washing until I reached the outermost rank. A quick touch told me that these were far from dry, so I returned to the lean-to laundry to finish up the last load of boys' clothes. I'd already scrubbed these once, but they were so dirty, I'd given up and decided to soak them for longer.
I wound them around the copper stick – actually an old cricket bat of Dominic's – and dumped the mess into the rinse water, praying that I wouldn't have to scrub them again. It wouldn't kill the boys to wear grey shirts to school, especially after they'd turned them that colour.
I shoved my arms into the tub of water, weaving my hands between the shirts and shorts in an effort to untangle them. The smell of smoke intensified as I touched the bottom of the stone tub. No, this wasn't the clean, sharp smell of burning jarrah from a neighbour's chimney. This was the fug of tobacco that shouldn't be anywhere near my laundry.
"Nick, if you're smoking again, I'll tell Mum!" I hissed, glancing over my shoulder.
The masculine silhouette in the doorway was too muscular to be my fifteen-year-old brother. As if to demonstrate this, he removed the cigarette from his lips and blew a stream of smoke at the ceiling. "Who is this Nick, streghetta? Your brother, I hope."
Giorgio's deep voice stopped my heart for a moment, before it stuttered back to beating. How could one man have such an effect on me? I only hoped he didn't notice.
"None of your business," I snapped. "What are you doing, trespassing here?"
He laughed softly. "I am driving my sister-in-law to see her friend. My brother didn't trust me to mind his shop, so he gave me his wife and truck instead. So, this friend. Is she your friend, too? Or your sister, perhaps?"
"My mother. And my father is pruning the grapevines, but he'll be back for lunch any moment, so you should get out of here and leave me to my work." I deliberately turned my back on him, concentrating only on the task at hand. I willed him to leave.
"But you have bewitched me, streghetta. I've thought of nothing and no one else since I met you in the market last week." I heard the crunch of footsteps on the hard-packed clay as he entered the lean-to.
He's right behind me, but I won't give him the satisfaction of paying him undeserved attention, I vowed, lifting a shirt from the suds so I could scrutinise it for stains.
Something warm touched my neck and I dropped the shirt with a splash. Whirling around, I glared at Giorgio. "How dare you touch me without my permission!"
"This new fashion of short hair drew my eyes to your neck, as I'm sure you intended, and I could not resist you, streghetta." He touched two fingers to his lips. "Your neck tastes of soap and salt, the products of your hard labour. Do your lips taste sweeter?"
I drew in a sharp breath to shout at him again, but he seized my shoulders and kissed me. His lips were warm as he took me by surprise, taking advantage of my open mouth to mingle his breath with mine, before his tongue darted in to dance. It was a kiss that spoke of passion, longing and a desire for more as his body pressed mine against the sink. He tasted of ash and smoke, coupled with the warmth of a fire that could melt even the iciest heart. Even mine, I realised, as my knees weakened. I groped for the sink behind me to stay on my feet and my fingers closed on the copper stick.
All those years of backyard cricket with my brothers was worth it, I decided, as I brought up the bat to hit the rogue for six. Cold, soapy water doused us both, but I didn't care because I heard and felt the satisfying thunk as the bat made contact with his head.
Immediately, he released me and backed up, touching a hand to his head to see if he was bleeding. Sadly, I hadn't hit him hard enough for that. My arms were too tired from a morning's worth of washing.
I brandished the bat. "Don't do that again."
He laughed and I almost hit him again. "Only if you promise not to bewitch me any more. Tell me your name."
"You've never had the good manners to introduce yourself, so why should I?" I retorted. I could still feel the heat of his mouth on mine. Heavens – I almost wanted to feel it again.
Demelza Carlton has always loved the ocean, but on her first snorkelling trip she found she was afraid of fish.
She has since swum with sea lions, sharks and sea cucumbers and stood on spray-drenched cliffs over a seething sea as a seven-metre cyclonic swell surged in, shattering a shipwreck below.
Sensationalist spin? No - Demelza tends to take a camera with her so she can capture and share the moment later; shipwrecks, sharks and all.
Demelza now lives in Perth, Western Australia, the shark attack capital of the world.
The Ocean's Gift series was her first foray into fiction, followed by the Nightmares trilogy. She swears the Mel Goes to Hell series ambushed her on a crowded train and wouldn't leave her alone.