Late on a Friday afternoon, Gus Wilder was only half paying
attention when he lifted the receiver.
‘A long distance call for you, boss,’ Charlie from the
front office told him. ‘Freya Jones from Sugar Bay in Queensland.’
Just like that, Gus was zapped from his demountable office
in the remotest corner of the Northern Territory to a little beach town on the
coast of Queensland. He was eighteen again and standing at the edge of rolling
surf, gazing into a lovely girl’s laughing, sea green eyes.
It was twelve years since he’d left the bay and he hadn’t
seen Freya in all that time, but of course he remembered her. Perfectly.
Didn’t every man remember the sweet, fragile magic of his
But so much water had flowed under the bridge since then.
He’d finished his studies and worked in foreign continents, and he’d traversed
joyous and difficult journeys of the heart. Freya would have changed a lot,
too. No doubt she was married. Some lucky guy was sure to have snapped her up
He couldn’t think why she would be ringing him after all
this time. Was there a high school reunion? Bad news about an old schoolmate?
Charlie spoke again. ‘Boss, you going to take the call?’
‘Yes, sure.’ Gus swallowed to ease the unexpected tension
in his throat. ‘Put Freya on.’
He heard her voice. ‘Gus?’
Amazing. She could still infuse a single syllable with
music. Her voice had always been like that – light, lyrical and sensuous.
‘You must be surprised to hear from me. Quite a blast from
Now she sounded nervous, totally unlike the laughing,
confident girl Gus remembered. A thousand questions clamoured to be asked, but
instinctively, he skipped the usual how are you preliminaries… ‘How can
I help you, Freya?’
There was an almost inaudible sigh. ‘I’m afraid it’s really
hard to explain over the phone. But it’s important, Gus. Really important. I –
I was hoping I could meet with you.’
Stunned, he took too long to respond. ‘Sure,’ he said at
last. ‘But I’m tied up right now. When do you want to meet?’
‘As soon as possible?’
This obviously wasn’t a high school reunion. Gus shot a
quick glance through the window of his makeshift office to the untamed
bushland that stretched endlessly to ancient red cliffs on the distant
horizon. ‘You know I’m way up in Arnhem Land, don’t you?’
‘Yes, they told me you’re managing a remote housing project
for an Aboriginal community.’
‘That’s right.’ The project was important and challenging,
requiring a great deal of diplomacy from Gus as its manager. ‘It’s almost
impossible for me to get away from here just now. What’s this all about?’
‘I could come to you.’
Gus swallowed his shock. Why would Freya come to him here?
After all this time? What on earth could be so suddenly important?
His mind raced, trying to dredge up possibilities, but each
time he drew a blank.
He pictured Freya as he remembered her, with long,
sun-streaked hair and golden tanned limbs, more often than not in a bikini
with a faded sarong loosely tied around her graceful hips. Even if she’d cast
aside her sea nymph persona, she was bound to cause an impossible stir if she
arrived on all male construction site.
‘It would be too difficult here,’ he said. ‘This place is
too – remote.’
‘Don’t planes fly into your site?’
‘We don’t have regular commercial flights.’
Another eloquent syllable – and there was no mistaking her
Grimacing, Gus scratched at his jaw. ‘You said this was
‘Yes, it is.’ After a beat, Freya said in a small,
frightened voice, ‘It’s a matter of life and death.’
* * *
They agreed to meet in Darwin, the Northern Territory’s
capital, which was, in many ways, an idyllic spot for a reunion, especially at
sunset on a Saturday evening at the end of a balmy tropical winter. The sky
above the harbour glowed bright, blushing pink shot with gold. The palm trees
were graceful, dancing silhouettes on the shorefront, and the colours of the
sky were reflected in the still tropical waters.
Not that Freya could appreciate the view.
She arrived too early on the hotel balcony. It wasn’t very
crowded, and she saw immediately that Gus wasn’t there, so she sat at the
nearest free table, with her legs crossed and one foot swinging impatiently,
while her fingers anxiously twisted the straps of her shoulder bag.
These nervous habits were new to her and she hated them.
Having grown up in a free and easy beachside community, she’d prided herself
on her relaxed personality, and as an adult she’d added meditation and yoga to
her daily practice.
Her serenity had deserted her, however, on the day she’d
needed it most – when the doctor delivered his prognosis. Since then she’d
been living with sickening fear, barely holding herself together with a string
and a paper clip.
Freya closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then
concentrated on imagining her son at home with Poppy, her mother. If Nick
wasn’t taking his dog Urchin for a twilight run on the beach, he’d be sprawled
on the living room carpet, playing with his solar powered robot grasshopper.
Poppy would be preparing dinner in the nearby kitchen, slipping in as many
healthy vegetables as she dared.
Already Freya missed her boy. She’d never been so far away
from him before, and thinking of him now, and the task that lay ahead of her,
she felt distinctly weepy. She dashed tears away with the heel of her hand.
Heavens, she couldn’t weaken now. She had to stay super strong.
You can do this. You must
do this. For Nick.
She’d do anything for Nick, even tell Gus Wilder the truth
after all this time.
That thought caused another explosion of fear. The process
of tracking Gus down and making the first telephone contact had been the easy
part. The worst was yet to come. Gus still didn’t know why she needed him.
A tall, flashily handsome waiter passed Freya, carrying a
tray laden with drinks. The smile he gave her was flirtatious to the point of
predation. ‘Would you like something from the bar, madam?’
‘Not just now, thanks. I’m waiting for –’ The rest of
Freya’s sentence died as her throat closed over.
Beyond the waiter, she saw a man coming through the wide
open doorway onto the balcony.
Tall. Dark haired. White shirt gleaming against tanned
skin. Perhaps a little leaner than she remembered, but handsome and athletic
enough to make heads turn.
Angus Wilder had aged very nicely, thank you.
But what kind of man was he now? How many gulfs had widened
between them, and how would he react to her news?
As he made his way towards her, weaving between tables,
memories, like scenes in a movie, played in Freya’s head. Gus at sixteen on
his first day at Sugar Bay High, desperate to throw off the taint of his posh
city high school. Gus triumphant on the footie field after he’d scored a match
winning try. Herself floating with happiness as she danced in his arms at the
The two of them walking together, holding hands beside a
moonlit sea. The sheer romance of their first kiss…
Suddenly Gus was beside her, leaning down to drop a polite
kiss on her cheek. ‘Freya, it’s good to see you.’
He smelled clean, as if he’d just showered and splashed on
aftershave. His lips were warm on her skin.
Without warning, Freya’s eyes and throat stung. ‘It’s great
to see you, Gus.’ She blinked hard. This was no time for nostalgia. She
had to stay cool and focused. ‘Thanks for coming.’
He pulled out a chair and sat, then slowly crossed his long
legs and leaned back, as if he were deliberately trying to appear relaxed. His
smile was cautious, the expression in his dark eyes warm, but puzzled. ‘How
are you?’ Quickly, he countered his question. ‘You look fabulous.’
Deep down she couldn’t help being pleased by the
compliment, but she said simply. ‘I’m well, thanks. How about you? How’s
‘Both first-rate.’ Gus sent her a slightly less careful
smile, but his throat worked, betraying his tension. ‘So, I take it you still
live at the bay?’
‘I do.’ She smiled shyly and gave a careless flick of her
long, pale hair. ‘Still a beach girl.’
‘It suits you.’
Freya dampened her lips and prepared to launch into what
had to be said.
From “A Miracle For His Secret Son"
By: Barbara Hannay
Mills and Boon Romance
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