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
Too anxious to speak, she simply
shook her head, watched the movement in his throat as he swallowed.
‘You’re pregnant then,’ he said
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
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
With trembling fingers, Jacob
traced the curve of her cheek. ‘I’ll look after you, I promise. We’ll be all
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
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
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.’
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
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.
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
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