Her Outback Surprise(5)

By: Annie Seaton

“Not a problem,” he’d said to his younger cousin. “Do what you have to do, mate. I’m happy to see the year out. When do you think you’ll be back here?”

“Contract winds up at the end of November. So I should be back in Australia by Christmas.”

“That suits me fine. Jemima is due back before Christmas. I might even stay out here for a couple more weeks and chase up a job in the city in the New Year.”

“Are you sure?” Sebastian sounded worried. Liam smiled. He and Sebastian had made their peace in those first couple of weeks last summer when the four cousins had been at the farm together.

“Absolutely. Garth and I have been helping each other out with the cattle.”

“How’s Lucy?”

Liam smiled. “She’s huge. It’s hard to believe she’s still got a couple of months before the baby’s due.”

Sebastian laughed. “It’s hard to believe she’s going to be a mum. She and Garth didn’t muck around with starting a family.”

Liam shook his head. “Reckons she’s going to have six kids.”

“Bloody hell, she can have that on her lonesome.” Sebastian’s voice was full of disbelief. “I can’t believe she’s given up her career and settled in so well to farm life.”

Liam had walked across to the kitchen window and stared out at the golden heads of wheat shimmering in the stiff spring breeze. He had settled onto the cattle property as though he’d never left the outback. The anticipation he felt each morning as he planned the cattle work and the planting of the wheat still surprised him. “Yep, amazing what changes we can accommodate, isn’t it?”

“It is. Thanks, mate. I’ll talk to you soon. Say hello to Lucy for me.”

“I will.” Liam laughed. “And you stay away from those Italian girls. Talk to you before Christmas.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be back. I’m looking forward to it.”

The way Liam felt at the moment, he was more than happy to see the year out. He was doing a damn good job of managing the farm. Yep, he’d give it till Christmas and then consider his options. Then get back to real work. Social issues, tackling big things out in the real world. Leaving the Pilliga Scrub far behind him. His working-the-farm holiday would be over before he could snap his fingers.

He glanced at his watch and looked down at his right thigh where the pup was sprawled. His leg was getting warm—oh, shit—and wet.

Liam lifted the dog off his lap and stared at the wet patch on his work pants. The little pup yawned and licked his hand.

Chapter Two

Angie Edmonds, new owner and veterinarian at the Spring Downs Veterinary Surgery, smoothed one hand over the head of the Dalmatian and dug into her lab coat pocket for a liver treat with the other. “He’s going really well, Judy. I can’t believe how big he’s grown.” She had chatted to Judy and little Lily for longer than she normally would have done, as she put off seeing the final patient for the day.

Not that seeing a small spaniel pup made her nervous. On the contrary; the little Boykin spaniel was a breed she didn’t see out here very often. Two hours earlier, when she’d glanced through the glass panel of the reception area door to see how busy it was in the waiting room, Angie’s heart had almost stopped beating. She had jumped back with a gasp, her hand over her mouth. For a moment, she’d thought she was going to pass out, as she’d held her breath in disbelief.

Oh. My. God.

“You okay, Angie?” Cissy, her vet nurse, had asked with a frown.

It couldn’t be.

“Do you know what he wants? The guy with the dark hair?” Her hand over her mouth muffled her words and Cissy put down the cloth she was wiping the examination table with.

“The good-looking one? What’s the matter? You’re as white as a ghost.”

Angie swallowed and her voice wobbled. “Yes, the good-looking one.”

“He’s got a Boykin spaniel with an injured leg.”

“Um, what’s his name?”

Please God, let me be wrong. She leaned against the door with her back pressed against the hard timber. It couldn’t be. It must be someone who looked like him. She let out a breath and relaxed. Of course it was. It was a crazy thought. There’s no way Liam Smythe, mover and shaker in the London newspaper world, would be out here in the tiny little town of Spring Downs with a dog on his lap. She chuckled, but her laugh was shaky.

But Cissy’s response dashed any last lingering hope that it wasn’t Liam out there waiting to see her. Not a double, not a lookalike, not an image that Angie had conjured up from her overactive imagination. She dreamed about the damned man most nights of the week and now she’d conjured him up in her waiting room.