Mattie was grinning
as she turned into the driveway at her new address. She couldn’t believe her
good luck. The block of flats was so much nicer than she’d expected, with
charming, white washed walls, Mediterranean blue doors and sunny balconies
that overlooked the bay.
Her flat, No. 3, was on the ground floor,
which meant she wouldn’t have to climb too many sets of stairs in the later
months of her pregnancy, and Brutus would be able to run in and out to the
garden to his heart’s content.
As she parked on the driveway, she saw a
welcoming pot of bright pink geraniums beside the door mat and the garden was
filled with sunshine. Mattie could already picture her life here. In the
mornings, she would bring her laptop outside and watch the sun sparkle on the
water while she worked. She could put Brutus on his lead and take him for
walks along the path beside the bay.
The flat was close to the hospital and it
had all the right vibes. If she stood on tiptoes, she could even see the tip
of Sydney Harbour Bridge. She was going to love living here for a whole year.
Everything about her new venture felt good.
She’d talked to the doctors at length and she’d thought about the project from
every angle, and she knew she was doing the right thing.
It was green lights all the way and if all
went well, by the end of the year, she would deliver to her best friends the
precious baby they both longed for. All she needed now was a successful
implantation and the surrogacy would begin.
Humming happily, Mattie reached for the
door key in her handbag, scooped up Brutus from his basket and opened the car
A blast of strident music burst like a
machine gun from No. 3 and Mattie’s happy smile disintegrated. Stunned, she
checked her key tag, but there was no mistake – No. 3 was definitely the right
flat – her flat. Gina had assured her for the hundredth time when she
handed over the keys this morning.
‘It’s yours for as long as you need it,’
Everything was arranged. Gina’s brother
Will owned this flat, but he was working on a mine site in Mongolia, and as
Mattie had refused any kind of monetary exchange for the surrogacy, Gina had
settled on the use of the flat instead.
The last thing Mattie expected was to find
another tenant here, playing music – heavy metal music that set her teeth on
edge. She clutched Brutus more tightly as she stared at the blue door.
Had squatters moved in? Were they throwing
She imagined bearded vagrants in black,
with earrings and tattoos, and she almost returned to the safety of her car.
But her sense of justice prevailed. She’d been assured many times that this
was her flat. Gina and Tom were excessively grateful that she was
willing to help them in their quest for a baby. Right was on her side.
Mentally gathering her courage, she marched
up the path, up the two stone steps and knocked.
And then thumped with her fist.
At last the volume of the music was lowered
and the door opened, and Mattie took a hasty step backwards.
The man who suddenly filled the doorway was
not wearing black, and he didn’t have tattoos or earrings. Even so, he looked
like a pirate.
At least, that was Mattie’s first thought,
which was no doubt prompted by his rather wild, dark hair and his scruffy jaw
– and the fact that his shirt was unbuttoned to reveal rather a great deal of
dazzling, tanned chest. Mattie tried very hard not to look at his chest, but
it was an incredibly eye-catching sample of male anatomy.
He propped a bulky shoulder against the
door frame and studied her from beneath disconcerting, half-lowered lids, and
he managed to look both annoyed and bored by her intrusion. ‘How can I help
When he spoke, Mattie stopped thinking
about pirates. For a moment, she stopped thinking altogether. His voice was
rich, dark and smooth, like an extremely sinful chocolate dessert. Combined
with his gaping white shirt, it sent her mind completely blank.
She forced her gaze up and away from his
chest and looked him bravely in the eye. ‘I… um… think… there’s been a
A dark eyebrow lifted lazily. ‘I beg your
Mattie tried again. ‘There seems to have
been some kind of mix up.’ She waved her door key. ‘This is my flat. No. 3.
I’m supposed to be moving in here today.’
He cast a quick, assessing glance that took
in Brutus, curled in her arms and her little car, crammed to the roof with her
worldly possessions. Then he glanced back over his shoulder into the living
room and for the first time, Mattie saw his companion – a long legged blonde,
reclining on the sofa with a glass of wine in her hand.
‘What’s she want?’ the woman called.
Ignoring her, the fellow narrowed his eyes
at Mattie. ‘Did the real estate office send you here?’
‘No.’ She straightened her shoulders. ‘I
have a – a private arrangement – with the owner. He knows all about it.’
‘Does he now? And would you mind telling me
the owner’s name?’
‘Excuse me?’ Mattie was incensed. ‘What
right have you to ask that? I can assure you, my claim on this flat is
legitimate. Is yours?’
To her annoyance, he chuckled. Mattie
almost stamped her foot and Brutus, sensing her distress, licked her hand. And
then the woman on the sofa uncurled her long legs, set down her wine glass and
joined the fellow in the doorway. She draped an arm around the man’s massive
shoulders. ‘What’s going on, Jake?’
‘Just a minor
border incursion.’ The man whose name, apparently, was Jake watched Mattie
with a look of faint amusement.
‘A territorial battle,’ he told the blonde,
without taking his dark, diamond bright gaze from Mattie.
An unwelcome ripple of heat fluttered over
Mattie’s skin. She glared at Jake for causing it, and deliberately turned her
attention to his sulky companion, rattled the keys again. ‘There’s been an
unfortunate mistake about the flat. I’m supposed to be moving in here.’
‘When?’ asked the other woman in a tone as
unhelpful as her boyfriend’s.
‘Today. Now. This afternoon.’ Mattie
pointed to the No. 3 tag. ‘I have a key.’ Again, she glared at Jake. ‘Do you
have a key? Or did you break in?’
His response was to fold his arms and
favour her with a withering look.
In desperation, Mattie said, ‘Look, I told
you I have an arrangement with Will Carruthers.’
‘Will Carruthers sent you here?’ Jake’s
eyes widened with surprise. ‘Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?’
Mattie was surprised too. ‘Do you know
‘Of course I know him. I work with him in
Mongolia. He’s my best mate.’
‘Oh.’ She gulped unhappily. ‘So, I suppose
he knows you’re here?’
‘Absolutely. I’m on leave. I had a week in
Japan and now I’m in Sydney for a week and Will insisted I use his flat.’
Mattie clung to the faint hope that Jake’s
week was almost up. ‘When did your week start?’
‘Day before yesterday.’
Deflated, she dropped her gaze to Brutus,
and he made sympathetic doggy noises and tried to lick her chin. ‘There’s
obviously been a mix up with the times.’
She tried not to sound too disappointed,
but if she and this Jake fellow both had a claim on the flat, and if he was
here first, she supposed she had no choice but to find somewhere else to stay
for the rest of this week.
She wondered despondently where she should
start her search for accommodation. It would have to be somewhere cheap and
she didn’t know Sydney very well.
‘Rotten luck for you,’ chirped the
girlfriend and she grinned smugly at Mattie as she rested her chin
possessively on Jake’s shoulder.
Mattie thought of pirates again – pirates
with smug parrots on their shoulders.
From “Expecting Miracle Twins"
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