Her Outback Surprise(9)

By: Annie Seaton

Chapter Three

“All she needs is to keep that leg still and let the tendons heal,” Angie said distractedly.

The green fangs of jealousy had taken a huge bite out of her heart. After they’d sedated Willow and put her in the small cage, Cissy placed her hand on Angie’s arm. At first, her heart had almost stopped beating as she imagined Liam with a wife and a child about to be born. Well, maybe not stopped, but it had given a damn good jump.

“It’s okay, Angie. Don’t worry, Lucy’s not that early. I was talking to her in the supermarket yesterday. She said she only had a couple of weeks to go.”

“You know Liam’s wife?” Angie forced the words out, as hard as it was to say Liam’s wife. That was an honour she had once thought would be reserved for her. It was like tasting sawdust. And yeah, hell would freeze over before that happened. He hadn’t loved her enough. What had happened to bring him out here to the outback, and to find a wife so quickly? And one who was having a baby? Right now, right this very instant, as she was standing looking at his cute little dog.

Despair fought with jealousy as Angie realised she couldn’t stay in Spring Downs. Not if Liam was settled here playing husband and daddy. She’d always had a rampant imagination, and her heart clenched as she imagined Liam nursing a newborn baby with a head of black hair and green eyes just like his. She frowned, maybe not. Hadn’t she read somewhere that all babies were born with blue eyes?

“Lucy’s not Liam’s wife.”

“Hmm.” Angie lifted her head and stared at Cissy. “What did you say?”

“I said Lucy isn’t Liam’s wife.” Cissy looked at her curiously.

“Not his wife?” Angie repeated slowly. “They’re not married?” Despair crept away a little bit.

“No, Lucy is Lucy Mackenzie, Liam’s cousin. They grew up here together. She’s married to Garth.” Cissy laughed and her words soothed Angie’s soul. “She and Liam lived out on their grandparents’ farm for a while, but Garth and Lucy got married last winter, and now the other two cousins are coming home, too. They all left for university and after their mothers were killed in a car accident in Europe, none of them had come home very often.”

“Sebastian and Jemima,” Angie said quietly. She should have remembered Lucy was Liam’s cousin, but the shock of hearing that phone call, and seeing his reaction about a baby being born, had delayed rational thinking for a few minutes and fired her imagination into overdrive.

Liam had often talked about his cousins. He’d told her about his mother and his aunts being killed in a car accident.

But why the hell was he home from London? Especially after that big promotion he’d gotten.

“I’d forgotten Liam had cousins.”

“Are you really okay, Angie? You’re pale again.” Cissy frowned as she followed Angie back into the front office.

“Yes. I’m fine. It was just a shock seeing Liam out here. Last I heard he was in London.” This time she was proud of how steady her voice was and it seemed to reassure Cissy. “And I was sure he’d stay there.”

“Liam’s been out on the family farm for most of this year. He’s been in a couple of times with the farm dogs. Just before Rod left for America.”

Angie shook her head. “We lost touch not long after I came back to Australia. I had no idea his family came from out this way. He never said.”

If she’d known, there was no way she would have bought the practice. Blast and damnation, in Liam Smythe’s hometown. What were the chances of that?

Cissy tidied up the waiting room, and after she went home to her family, Angie fed the other animals in the small hospital enclosure out the back. She played with Willow’s soft ears until the pup was settled and had drifted off to sleep, and then slipped off her lab coat, combed her hair and put on some lipstick.

Despite her intention of not getting involved, and of avoiding Liam, ten minutes later she was walking along the road toward the Spring Downs Cottage Hospital. It was mid spring and the cool westerly winds of winter had finally blown themselves out. The sky was deepening to a rich purple and indigo and the small clouds puffing above the western horizon were shot with gold. As the evening star glowed in the early evening sky, Angie closed her eyes and made a wish.

A wish that will never come true.

The hospital car park was almost empty. Two red dust-covered work utes sat side by side near the main office. She pushed open the door of the small building and took a deep breath.

Stupid, that’s what I am.

“Hello, Angie.” Helen Longmore, the front counter receptionist and owner of the cutest ragdoll cat called Sybil, greeted her as she crossed the reception area. “What can I do for you?”