There were days when
Lucy McKenty knew she was in the wrong job. A woman in her thirties with a
loudly ticking biological clock should not devote huge chunks of her time to
delivering gorgeous babies.
Admittedly, the babies
Lucy delivered usually had four legs and a tail, but that didn’t stop them
from being impossibly cute, and it certainly didn’t stop her from longing for
a baby. Just one baby of her own to hold and to love.
The longing swept
through her now as she knelt in the straw beside the calf she’d just
delivered. The birthing had been difficult, needing ropes and a great deal of
Lucy’s perspiration, but now, as she shifted the newborn closer to his
exhausted mother’s head, she felt an all too familiar wrench on her
The cow opened her eyes
and began to lick her calf, slowly, methodically, and Lucy smiled as the
newborn nuzzled closer. She never tired of this miracle.
Within minutes, the
little calf was wobbling to his feet, butting at his mother’s side, already
urging her to join him in a game.
Nothing could beat the
joy of new life
Except… this idyllic
scene was an uncomfortable reminder that Lucy had very little chance of
becoming a mother. She’d already suffered one miscarriage and now there was a
failed IVF treatment behind her. She was sure she was running out of time. The
women in her family had a track record of early menopause and she lived with
an ever growing sense of her biological clock counting off the months, days,
Tick, tock, tick, tock.
Swallowing a sigh, Lucy
stood slowly and stretched muscles that had been strained as she hauled the
calf into the world. She glanced through the barn doorway and saw that the
shadows had lengthened across the golden grass of the home paddock.
‘What’s the time?’ she
asked Jock Evans, the farmer who’d called her in a panic several hours
Instead of checking his
wrist, Jock turned slowly and squinted at the mellowing daylight outside.
‘Just gone five, I reckon.’
‘Already?’ Lucy hurried
to the corner of the barn where she’d left her things, including her watch.
She checked it. Jock was dead right. ‘I’m supposed to be at a wedding
rehearsal by half past five.’
Jock’s eyes widened with
surprise. ‘Don’t tell me you’re getting married, Lucy?’
‘Me? Heavens no.’
Peeling off sterile gloves, she manufactured a gaiety she didn’t feel. ‘Mattie
Carey’s the lucky girl getting married. I’m just a bridesmaid.’
she added silently.
The farmer didn’t try to
hide his relief. ‘I’m glad you haven’t been snapped up. The Willow Creek
district can’t afford to have you whisked away from us.’
‘Well, there's not much
‘Most folks around here
reckon you’re the best vet we’ve ever had.’
‘Thanks, Jock.’ Lucy
sent him a grateful smile, but as she went through to the adjoining room to
clean up, her smile wavered and then collapsed.
She really, really loved
her job, and she’d worked hard for many years before the local farmers finally
placed their trust in a mere “slip of a girl”. Now she’d finally earned their
loyalty and admiration and she knew she should be satisfied, but lately this
job hadn’t felt like enough.
She certainly didn’t
want to be married to it!
For Will Carruthers,
coming home to Willowbank always felt to like stepping back in time. In ten
years the sleepy country town had barely changed.
The wide main street was
still filled with the same old fashioned flowerbeds. The bank, the council
chambers, the post office and the barbershop all looked exactly as they had
when Will first left home.
Today, as he climbed out
of his father’s battered old truck, the familiar landmarks took on a dreamlike
quality. But when he pushed open the gate that led to the white wooden church,
where tomorrow his best mate would marry one of his oldest friends, he
couldn’t help thinking that this sense of time standing still was a mere
The buildings and the
landscape might have stayed the same, but the people who lived here had
changed. Oh, yeah. Every person who mattered in Will’s life had changed a
And here was the funny
thing. Will had left sleepy old Willowbank, eager to shake its dust from his
heels and to make his mark on the world. He’d traversed the globe more times
than he cared to count, but now, in so many ways, he felt like the guy who’d
been left behind.
From inside the church
the wailing cries of a baby sounded, a clear signal of the changes that had
taken place. Will’s sister Gina appeared at the church door, jiggling a
howling, ginger-headed infant on her hip.
When she saw her
brother, her face broke into a huge smile.
‘Will, I’m so glad you
made it. Gosh, it’s lovely to see you.’ Reaching out, she beckoned him closer,
gave him a one armed hug. ‘Heavens, big brother, have I shrunk or have you
grown even taller?’
‘Maybe the weight of
motherhood is wearing you down.’ Will stooped to kiss her, then smiled as he
studied her face. ‘I take that back, Gina. I don’t think you’ve ever looked
‘I know,’ she beamed.
‘It’s amazing, isn’t it? I seem to have discovered my inner Earth Mother.’
He grinned and patted
her baby’s chubby arm. ‘This must be Jasper. He’s certainly a chip off the old
block.’ The baby was a dead ringer for his father, Tom, right down to his red
hair. ‘G’day, little guy.’
Jasper stopped crying
and stared at Will with big blue eyes, shiny with tears.
‘Gosh, that shut him
up.’ Gina grinned and winked. ‘You must have the knack, Will. I knew you’d be
perfect uncle material.’
Will chuckled to cover
an abrupt slug of emotion that had caught him by surprise. Gina’s baby was
incredibly cute. His skin was soft and perfectly smooth, his eyes bright and
clear. There were dimples on his chubby hands and, crikey, dimples on his
knees. And even though he was only four months old, he was unmistakably sturdy
‘What a great little
guy,’ he said, his voice rough around the edges.
Gina was watching him
shrewdly. ‘Ever thought of having a little boy of your own, Will?’
He covered his sigh with
a lopsided grin. ‘We both know I’ve been too much of a gypsy.’
Reluctant to meet his
sister’s searching gaze, Will studied a stained glass window, found himself
remembering a church in Canada, where, only days ago, he’d attended the
funeral of a work colleague. He could still see the earnest face of his
friend’s ten year old son, could see the pride in the boy’s eyes as he bravely
faced the congregation and told them how much he’d loved his dad.
Hell, if he let himself
think about that father and son relationship now, he’d be a mess in no time.
Hunting for a
distraction, Will slid a curious glance towards the chattering group at the
front of the church. ‘I hope I’m not late. The rehearsal hasn’t started, has
‘No, don’t fret. Hey,
everyone!’ Gina raised her voice. ‘Will’s here.’
The chatter stopped.
Heads turned and faces broke into smiles. A distinct lump formed in Will’s
How good it was to see
them all again. Tom, Gina’s stolid, farmer husband, was grinning like a
Cheshire cat as he held baby Mia, Jasper’s twin sister.
Mattie, the bride to be,
looked incredibly happy as she stood with her bridegroom’s arm about her
Mattie was marrying Jake
Devlin and Will still couldn’t get over the changes in Jake. The two men had
worked together on a mine site in Mongolia and they’d quickly become great
mates, but Will could have sworn that Jake was not the marrying kind.
No one had been more
stunned when Jake, chief breaker of feminine hearts, had fallen like a ton of
bricks for Mattie Carey.
One look at Jake’s face
now, however, and Will couldn’t doubt the truth of it. Crikey, his mate had
never looked so relaxed and happy – at peace with himself and eager to take on
As for Mattie… Will had
known her all his life… but now she looked… well, there was only one word…
Radiant and beautiful
only went part way to describing her.
He couldn’t detect any
sign that she’d recently given birth to twins – to Gina and Tom’s babies, in
fact, in a wonderful surrogacy arrangement that had brought untold blessings
to everyone involved. Mattie was not only slim once again, but she’d acquired
a new confidence that blazed in her eyes, in her glowing smile, in the way she
All this, Will noticed
as everyone gathered around him, offering kisses, handshakes and backslaps.
‘So glad you could make
it,’ Jake said, pumping his hand.
‘Try to keep me away,
mate. I’d pay good money to see you take the plunge tomorrow.’
‘We’re just waiting for
the minister and his wife,’ Mattie said. ‘And for Lucy.’
It was ages since he’d
seen Lucy, and he’d never been happy about the way they’d drifted apart,
although it had seemed necessary at the time. ‘Is Lucy coming to the wedding
‘Of course,’ Mattie
said. ‘Didn’t you know? Lucy’s a bridesmaid.’
From 'The Bridesmaid's Baby"
By: Barbara Hannay
Mills and Boon Romance
ISBN: 978 0 263 20830-6
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