Exclusive (available nowhere else) first chapter of BITTERSWEET!

The very first unveiling of my book baby BITTERSWEET!

For you, right now, is the first chapter of the novel. Nowhere else (yet) is this available.

I hope you enjoy!


Jacquie Underdown

Chapter 1

Amy Jenkins couldn’t get away from Alpine Ridge fast enough. She pressed her foot to the floor, urging the old rust bucket ahead. The engine groaned.

No way was this car sturdy enough to make it the three-hour drive to Melbourne, but she was out of options.

A trail of dust skirted behind her as she raced along the gravel track. The autumn colours of the vineyard, seen through the windscreen, were blurring together behind a watery film of tears.

A sob broke from her throat, and she slammed her palm against the steering wheel. Everything that meant anything to her was lost. Nothing existed inside. She owned nothing. Her dreams were shattered. Every constructed part of her identity had been picked away until she was left gaping and raw.

Shoulders slumping, Amy pressed a hand to her chest, trying to ease the dull ache. She sought an anchor to cling to but found nothing, no-one to hold her up, not even a sense of self. Her heart thudded out a staccato beat as that little nugget of misery dawned on her.

Where did she go now that she’d reached the end?

How did she find the sunshine from the darkness of rock bottom?

She shook. Tears stole her vision. If she didn’t pull over right now, she would crash, so she eased the car to the side of the track and cut the engine. She dropped her head against the steering wheel and fell apart.

Amy Jenkins, who had lived every day for the last twenty-nine years, died at that moment. The world she had built crumbled around her shoulders.

An engine roared in the distance. She wiped at her face and glanced up into the rearview mirror. The glinting metal of a car was speeding down the hill. She turned the key in the ignition, but the engine let out a tired series of gasps rather than the rumble she was hoping for. Damn it!

She twisted the key again and sputtering grunts and clicks sounded. A glance out the windscreen revealed another car heading towards her. The car behind came to a stop, gravel and sticks crunching under the tyres.

Ahead, the ute skidded to a halt metres from where she sat. Amy’s good sense begged her not to look at the man in the driver’s seat—it would only hurt her all the more to do so, but she had no choice, this stupid car wasn’t letting her go anywhere.

The door flung open and Tom climbed out. His jaw was set. His neck was straining. When he faced her and met her gaze through the windscreen, his shoulders relaxed and relief overcame his features for a few heartbeats. Enough time for yearning to throb through her body, sinking deep into her bones.


He looked past her to the car behind and glowered. The image in the mirror reflected Mitch climbing from his car. A fierceness overcame Tom’s stance, and his fists clenched and unclenched at his side as he stormed towards Mitch.

Oh no no no!

Amy yanked the handle, thrust the door open and scrambled out. ‘Tom!’ she yelled, but he didn’t acknowledge her, his long, determined steps not faltering for a second. She rushed after him, not knowing what she could do to stop him, but she needed to be nearby, just in case.

Tom charged at Mitch and shoved him in the chest. Mitch stumbled backwards but regained his balance.

‘You …’ growled Tom, palms colliding with Mitch’s chest again. The height difference was never more obvious as Tom loomed over his brother, but Mitch was more solid, even with the weight he had lost over the last few months, and he managed to keep his footing.

Tom pressed closer until he was face to face with his brother. ‘No more

interfering in my life. It ends now!’

Mitch held his hands up. ‘Let me talk first.’

‘No. You listen to me.’ Tom raised his fist. He slammed it like a hard rock into Mitch’s jaw. A sickening smack sounded. Mitch’s head flung to the side, and he stumbled backwards.

Amy screamed, ‘Tom! No.’

Tom pressed closer, poised to strike again.

‘No, Tom. Don’t. Don’t.’

Tom thumped Mitch again. The revolting crack curled in Amy’s stomach like rancid food. If Mitch hadn’t defended himself yet, he wasn’t going to. He was going to take the blows until his brother’s fire was out. Amy’s heartrate ratcheted because she was unsure how long that would take.

She sprinted, screaming, ‘Stop it! Tom, please, stop.’ She grabbed Tom’s arm. His chest was heaving, his nostrils flared.

Mitch’s face was blotchy red. An open gash on his cheek leaked blood down his face and neck.

Tom glared at Mitch, his jaw tight, but when Amy trailed her fingers down his rigid arm, desperate to diffuse his anger, he turned and met her pleading gaze. With each deep breath, his tensed muscles eased and face relaxed. He dropped his hands to his side and sighed.

Tom. Thank God.

But a different determination crept into his stance and expression. Before she could decipher what it meant, he squatted, gripped Amy by the waist and hoisted her up in the air. He threw her over his shoulder and marched to his ute.

She punched his back, but it was useless, he didn’t even register her fists.

She hadn’t the power to compete with his size and strength.

‘Let me down,’ she yelled.

He opened the passenger side door and bundled her into the car. ‘You’re not going anywhere. Your home is here … with me.’ He shut the door and marched around to the driver’s side.

Mitch jogged over. ‘Wait. Let me talk.’

Tom hesitated, looked up at his brother, and his shoulders rolled inwards. Despite the anger radiating from him moments earlier, Tom was obviously broken.

How did they all get to this point? How could all their lives unravel so fast?



A vineyard, a family in pain, and the healing magic of cupcakes...

Amy Jenkins, a talented and ambitious chef, is left humiliated and debt-ridden, after her city restaurant fails. When her best friend calls asking for help in her small town cupcake shop, Amy jumps at the chance to hide out in the small town of Alpine Ridge while her shattered ego mends.

The youngest Mathews brother, Tom feels over-looked and under-appreciated. His brothers remember every mistake, but never give him the responsibility or opportunity to take his place in the family business. So, he spends three weeks out of every month working at a mine in the back-end of nowhere. But then Amy moves to town to help run his pregnant sister-in-law’s bakery, and suddenly home seems to be where his heart is.

Amy’s move was only ever meant to be temporary, but when tragedy strikes the Mathews family, Amy finds herself unable to move on. As she and Tom get closer, Amy finds every excuse to stay: first, she claims it’s for the family, then she claims it’s for the shop. But maybe, it’s for her own heart...

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