~ ADOPTED: OUTBACK BABY ~

 

Their parenthood surprise

Single, independent Nell Ruthven thought she'd missed her chance to be a mum when, aged nineteen, she was forced to give up her baby for adoption. Now, Nell's discovered she has a tiny grandson in need of care. And the baby's grandfather, cattleman Jacob Tucker, is in town...

At thirty-nine, this couple never thought they'd be parents, let alone grandparents! they never even thought they'd see each other again. But taking care of baby Sam together gives them a second chance -- maybe even a second chance to fall in love?

 


 

 

MILLS AND BOON  ROMANCE

- UNITED KINGDOM  July 2008 -

 

HARLEQUIN ROMANCE

- NORTH AMERICA July  2008 -

 

MILLS AND BOON SWEET

- AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND August 2008 -

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             
   

 

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A summer’s morning at dawn.

Nell and Jacob met at their secret place on the sheltered river bank, the only safe place for the boss’s daughter and the hired help.

Arriving by separate tracks, they tethered their horses at opposite ends of the clearing. Nell was nervous and Jacob was on tenterhooks waiting for her news, but he came towards her proudly, striding through the misty morning light with his shoulders back and his head high, as if he owned the earth.
A metre from her, he stopped and she read the silent question in his serious grey eyes.

Too anxious to speak, she simply shook her head, watched the movement in his throat as he swallowed.

‘You’re pregnant then,’ he said quietly.

Nell dropped her gaze to her clasped hands. ‘I’m almost certain.’

She heard his sharp indrawn breath and whispered, ‘I’m sorry.’ And she realised for the first time that she was a little afraid of this tall and ruggedly divine young man. 

Suddenly, she felt as if she didn’t really know him, in spite of the many stolen hours she’d spent with him here during the long, hot weeks of her summer holiday. Pregnancy changed everything, changed something precious and perfect into a shameful mistake. And it forced the two of them to consider a future they weren’t prepared for.

More than anything, Nell was scared of what her father would do when he found out. His bad temper was beyond volcanic. He would never forgive her for this and she was certain that he would offer her only one option.
She trembled at the thought, drew a hasty breath for courage. ‘My parents will want me to have an abortion.’

Jacob’s frown was fierce. ‘You don’t want that, do you?’

No. She couldn’t bear the thought of terminating a baby they had made. She shook her head.

‘You mustn’t do it then, Nell. Don’t even think about it.’ He reached for her hands, threaded his strong, work-toughened fingers through hers and she felt the familiar rasp of the callous on his right palm.

Beside them, the river chattered carelessly and the scent of eucalypts and she-oaks hung heavy in the air.

‘I’m sorry,’ she whispered again.

‘Don’t be.’ Jacob gave her hands a gentle shake. ‘Don’t apologise.’

Tears stung her eyes. She knew apologies shouldn’t be necessary. From the moment she and Jacob met on that first afternoon, when she’d returned to Half Moon from university, the blame had been equally shared.

She’d seen him tending her father’s horses and Cupid had started firing those dangerous little arrows. Their over-the-top attraction had blinded them to anything else, especially to common sense. They hadn’t taken precautions that first time.

Now, Jacob gathered Nell in to him and his big hand cradled her head against his shoulder. She adored the smell of him – musky and warm and clean – and something very masculine that she couldn’t identify.

He kissed her brow. ‘Will you marry me, Nell?’

She gasped, felt hot and cold with excitement. This was what she’d been longing for, the words from Jacob she’d been silently praying for, secretly clinging to the hope that Jacob would want her and his baby. It was the only way she could possibly face up to her parents.

With trembling fingers, Jacob traced the curve of her cheek. ‘I’ll look after you, I promise. We’ll be all right.’

Oh, yes. They’d be all right. Nell had no doubts. Jacob was an excellent stockman, brilliant on horseback, with a deep love of the land. He would find work anywhere in the Outback. She wouldn’t mind too much about giving up her studies and she wouldn’t mind about being poor, not if she was with him.
Her parents were the only problem.

They were such painful, painful snobs. They’d only sent her to university to snare a rich husband and World War Three would erupt if Nell announced she was marrying their cook’s son.

She needed to consider Jacob too, needed to be sure that he was being completely honest. He’d told her about his long term plans to have his own cattle empire, but that was in the distant future. An early marriage hadn’t figured in his scheme.

‘Are you sure about this, Jacob?’

With his arms about her waist, he leaned back to look at her and he frowned as if this were a matter of life and death. ‘I’ve never been surer, Nell. I know I don’t have much to offer you. You deserve an educated husband, someone rich.’

It was exactly what her parents might say, but coming from him, it sounded wrong. She opened her mouth to protest, but Jacob hurried on.

‘I love you, Nell, I swear. And I promise I’ll look after you. I’ll work hard. I’ll get two jobs. I’ll make enough money for you and the baby and one of these days we’ll have our own place. A big property like Half Moon.’

He was so determined and defiant and Greek god gorgeous he banished her fears as easily as the sun scatters mist.

He said again, ‘I love you. You must know that.’

‘Yes.’ Smiling through happy tears, she wrapped her arms tightly around him. ‘And I love you so much it hurts.’

Nell lifted her lips to meet his and they kissed deeply, hungrily. She clung to Jacob, confident that his hard, lean strength would protect her forever.

‘Everything’s going to be wonderful,’ she said and his face broke into a beautiful grin.

‘So you’ll marry me?’

‘Oh, yes, please. Absolutely.’

‘Yes!’

His sudden, joyful whoop startled a flock of finches in a nearby wattle. With another loud shout of triumph, he hoisted Nell high and their laughter mingled with the birds’ cries as he spun her around and around in happy circles.

They were going to be married. With their baby, they would be a little family. No one would stop them. All was right with their world.

Jacob slowed before Nell got too dizzy and he let her back to earth, let her body ride slowly… slowly down his muscled length till she reached where he was hard and she almost burst into flames.

Again their mouths met, hungrier than ever. Nell poured her heart and soul into the kiss, wanting him to be certain of how intensely, wildly, completely she loved him.

His hands slipped under her shirt and skimmed lightly over her skin, giving her exquisite shivers.

Abruptly, the stillness of the summer morning was broken by the sound of a cold, metallic click.

They froze.

Nell felt Jacob’s heart leap against hers as they turned.

Her father stood in the shadows, his face flushed with red fury as he shouldered a shotgun and took aim.



From “Adopted: Outback Baby"
By: Barbara Hannay
Mills and Boon Romance
July 2008
ISBN: 978 0 263 20297-7
Copyright: © Barbara Hannay
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A. For more romance information surf to: http://www.eHarlequin.com

 

 

             
 

 

 

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