Her Outback Surprise(8)

By: Annie Seaton

Too fast.

And look where that had got her.

“What happened to Rod?” His voice was quiet this time.

“He went to America with his fiancée. I bought his practice.”

“Oh.” He stared at her intently. “I distinctly remember you didn’t want me calling because you were seeing someone else. So has your new man moved to Spring Downs with you?”

Angie waved her hand dismissively. “I didn’t say that.” Her housemate Jenny’s boyfriend had answered the phone that night and he’d chatted away to Liam for a while before handing the phone over to Angie. Liam had assumed she was seeing him.

“The message was clear.” Liam was staring at her, making her uncomfortable.

Angie swallowed. When Liam had assumed that she was seeing someone else she hadn’t corrected his assumption. He’d been more interested in telling her about his promotion than listening to her that night. Angie hadn’t wanted him to know how much that had hurt so she’d ignored his words and let him assume whatever he’d wanted to. She needed to set him straight but before she could explain, Cissy poked her head around the door. “X-ray’s ready to go, Angie. I need to get home as soon as I can.”

Angie glanced at her watch. “I’ll come and give you a hand. You wait here, Liam. We won’t be too long.”

“I’m really pleased things have worked out for you.” He shoved a hand in his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. “There’s no need for me to wait. It’s not my dog.”

“Whoa. Hold on there.” Angie took another deep breath and pushed back the unprofessional anger that threatened to bubble out into words she would later regret.

Pretend this is anyone but Liam. In fact, it wasn’t too hard. The Liam from London had been pale and his hair had been cropped short. She narrowed her gaze. He looked like he’d lost weight, too. His face was tanned now—she wouldn’t go so far as rugged—but he looked harder, as though he’d polished off the soft edges that too much drinking and smoking had given him.

Normally, when people got her dander up, she would pretend they were standing in their PJs and that helped her stay calm and professional. That wasn’t going to work now. Problem was, Liam didn’t wear PJs to bed, and that was a picture she certainly wasn’t about to conjure up. That would reduce her to a blubbering mess. Not a good look for the local vet.

“You brought Willow in.” She wasn’t going to refer to this sweet little pup who was looking up at her with soulful brown eyes as the dog. “So it’s your responsibility to take her back, and to pay the bill.”

“The bill is not an issue. I’m happy to pay it. But it’s—she’s—not my dog.” Liam waved his hand and glanced over as Cissy opened the door and slipped into the room “She was left on the road outside the farm, and I knew she was injured, so I brought her in to have her attended to. So…I’ll just leave her here.”

Angie shook her head, ignoring the mention of the farm. Why Liam was here and why he was on a farm in the Pilliga Scrub and wearing work clothes was a question she was not going to ask. She didn’t want to know anything. She didn’t need that angst in her now calm and settled life. “I’m sorry. That’s not how it works.” Her voice was brisk. “Cissy, let’s get this happening. Mr. Smythe—” She paused as the sounds of “Bohemian Rhapsody” came from Liam’s pocket. He pulled out the phone and glanced at the screen with a frown.

“Excuse me, I have to take this.”

Angie spoke quietly to Cissy but couldn’t help eavesdropping on Liam’s conversation, especially when his voice rose and he ran his hand through his hair.

“At the hospital? Having the baby?” He was quiet for a minute. “It can’t be coming yet, Lucy. It’s too early. Way too early.”

Curiosity pulled at Angie but she tried to remain professional. “Ready, Cissy?”

“How much? What does that mean?” This time they couldn’t ignore the distress in his voice. “Ten centimetres? What do you mean you’re about to give birth?” His voice rose, and Cissy and Angie exchanged a concerned look.

Liam disconnected the call and shoved the phone in his pocket. “I have to go. Lucy’s having the baby. Look, board the dog in your hospital room. I’ll come back later and sort the bill.” He pulled out his wallet and pulled out a hundred-dollar note. “That’s a deposit just so you don’t think I’m going to do a runner.”

Angie and Cissy were left holding the puppy as the door slammed behind him.