His Outback Nanny(10)

By: Annie Seaton


“Yes, that’s it. Daddy said he doesn’t want us to get those worms.”

Jemmy wished she knew what had happened before she took Gwennie back to Ned. But it wasn’t the right thing to ask a little girl who was advertising for a new mother.

She’d have a quiet word with Ned about what his daughter was up to.

Jemima held her hand firmly as they stood at the side of the road. A road train came thundering into town, and she smiled as Gwennie covered her nose with her free hand.

“Oh dear. I forgot to ask you,” she said with a worried frown. “If you’re going to come and be our new mummy, you’ll have to like the smell of cattle because we live on a farm. Is that all right?”

Once they’d reached the other side of the street and stood outside the bank, Gwennie tugged her hand.

“I hope Daddy won’t be cross with me.” Her little voice was quiet. “I only did it because I heard him on the phone to Grandpa the other night, and he said he needs to spend more time out on the farm, but with Ryan and us girls, he hasn’t got enough time. Since Mummy went to heaven, Daddy has looked after us all by his self.”

Jemima’s heart contracted, and her eyes stung as she looked into the earnest face of the little girl.

“Come on. Let’s take you back to Daddy. He used to be best friends with my brother a long time ago when I was a little girl just like you. I’m sure he won’t be cross.”

Chapter Five

Ned shook Paul Crowe’s hand and ignored the despair that was gripping his chest. For a second, he worried he was having a heart attack. He couldn’t do that. The kids wouldn’t have anyone. He took a deep breath, and the tightness eased.

It was stress, pure and simple.

“I’m sorry I can’t be more positive, Ned, but without a proven record on the land, I can’t authorize a rural loan. If it was for something other than wages, I could perhaps use it as security but just to hire a worker or two? Sorry.” The bank manager looked sombre. “I know it’s not a good option, but I can approve a credit card that will give you enough credit to see you through the year.”

They crossed the office to the door, and Ned shook his head. “Not at 30 percent interest. Thanks, Paul.”

He pushed open the door, and Paul walked out with him.

Gwennie ran across the waiting area. “Daddy, Daddy. Look who’s here!”

He lifted his head and stared. It was Jemima, but she no longer wore the red suit. Instead, a loose, checked shirt hung open over a white T-shirt and a pair of slim-fitting jeans. Her long legs—and boy, were they long—ended in a pair of dusty work boots. She smiled at him, and he tried to smile back.

Gwennie tugged at his hand, and Ned was lost for words when she pulled him over to the woman.

“Our new mummy’s here.”

Before Ned could speak, Paul strode past him and held out his hand to the woman. “Well, let me be the first to congratulate you, Jemima.” Paul turned to Ned as he shook her hand. “You old son of a gun, if you’d mentioned that you were marrying Jemima, there would have been no problem with the loan approval.”

Luckily for Ned’s sanity, Ryan dropped the new car that Ned had bought at the supermarket this morning and began to bellow. “Now it’s broked. Kelsey, you broked it. You broked it, you broked it. I want a new one.”

The bank teller was staring at them with her mouth open. Jemima held Ned’s eye as he crossed to the chair and lifted Ryan off Kelsey’s lap. As he stared back at her, she shook her head slightly in an almost imperceptible movement, and he swallowed down the denial that hovered.

“Ned, I’ve got another appointment now, but give me a call later. The loan won’t be a problem. Don’t worry about coming into town until I call you to sign the papers.” Paul patted his shoulder as Ned’s hands were busy trying to stop Ryan from crawling down his body to the floor.

Ned nodded and waited until the door to the bank manager’s office closed.

“What was that all about?” he said in a cracked voice. He cleared his throat and put Ryan down onto the floor.

“Hello again, Ned.” She nodded, and a sweet smile crossed her face. She lowered her voice to a whisper as Gwennie sat down on the floor next to Ryan. “I need to have a quick word to you about Gwennie. Have you got time to come and have a coffee?”

“And maybe you can tell me why Paul Crowe instantly approved a loan when he thought you were my—um—fiancée.” He scratched his head as she nodded. “Come on, kids. Milkshake time.” Ned took Ryan’s hand and followed Jemima out of the bank.