Her Outback Surprise

By: Annie Seaton
Prologue


Angie


Two years ago—London

The air was filled with tension. Liam stood there with his hands shoved in his pockets, looking over her head at the clouds. His lips were set tight, and all Angie could think was that he was keen to see her go so he could get to work for his night shift. The ache that held her by the throat as she fought back tears was almost impossible to bear.

“Looks like more rain coming.” His voice was soft.

“Yes. It’s been a wet autumn.”

“Ange? I’m going to miss you.” Liam reached out and his fingers caressed her cheek. It took a superhuman effort not to break down and beg him to come home with her.

“Yeah.” She was saved by the headlights of the small black cab reflecting on the puddles of rain as it came around the corner. “You’ll be fine.”

“Will you?”

“Me?” Her voice was hard. “Of course I will. It’s been fun, Liam, but life goes on. We always knew my visa would run out and I’d have to go back home to Australia.”

She reached down to pick up her suitcase as the cab lurched to a stop with a spray of water arcing through the streetlights, but Liam reached out and took her hand before she could grip the handle. His other hand gently held her chin, and she closed her eyes as his lips descended on hers. She bit back the sigh as he kissed her. It was as though he was trying to tell her something as his lips clung to hers. His hand trembled on her back, and she opened her eyes and pulled away to stare at him. His eyes were dark and hooded, but for a moment Angie could swear she saw a glint of moisture in them and it almost brought her tears to the fore. Liam brushed his thumb across her cheek and she bit her lip.

“It’s not going to be the same without you here, Ange.”

Say you’ve changed your mind. Come home with me. The plea filled her thoughts but she wouldn’t let the words cross her lips. Please.

“You ready, luv?” The Cockney voice of the cabdriver broke the moment and Angie bent down to pick up her small suitcase. She’d sent the two big ones to the airport via a courier earlier that day.

“I am.”

One last kiss. She would allow herself that. From now on, all she’d have to keep her warm at night were memories. Angie stood on her toes and placed her lips against Liam’s.

“Good-bye,” she murmured. She didn’t look back as she tore herself away and ran down the steps to the cab.



Liam

The high-pitched chorus of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” shattered Liam Smythe’s deep sleep. He jerked awake and fumbled for his phone in the dark. He glanced at the bright digital figures of his watch sitting on the bedside table as he lifted the phone to his ear.

What the—three a.m.? And where was he? Another bloody hotel in what town? Liam had to think for a minute before he remembered he was in London. In his own bed in his apartment.

God, he hated calls that came in the middle of the night. Always bad news.

“Liam Smythe.” He cleared his throat; his voice gravelly from the one too many drinks he’d had when the news desk staff had wandered down to the West End after last night’s shift. He’d been doing too much of that since Angie had gone back to Australia.

Way too much.

It was time he pulled back a bit on the pub visits every night after the staff put the paper to bed.

“Is that my favourite grandson?” A sweet voice chimed over the line, all the way from Down Under—all the way from the Pilliga Scrub in the Australian outback, to be precise.

More than ten thousand miles away from his safe and quiet apartment on the bank of the Thames River in London.

But Liam wasn’t fooled. That sweet little voice belonged to a woman with a backbone of steel. He sat up straighter and ran a hand through his hair, as if she could see him.

“Hey, Gran.” He leaned back against the bedhead and reached for a cigarette, before remembering he’d given them up last month. “What’s new?”





Chapter One


Liam Smythe hefted his backpack onto his shoulder and stepped onto the footpath outside Sydney International Airport. Crowds of people rushed past him, in and out of the sliding doors, horns blared, and car fumes hung in the air. He could have been in any city in the world. Travellers queued for taxis, purpose written on their faces, and for the first time in a long while, Liam realised he, too, had a purpose today. Out of habit, he patted his shirt pocket for a cigarette and then remembered—again—that he’d given up. Nor had he had one drink on the whole thirty-hour flight from London. He was coming back home and determined to have a healthy lifestyle. It would be easy—all that fresh country air and Gran’s cooking.

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