In the Outback… one spark can set the heart aflame!

In the heart of a woman

The image of Byrne Drummond has burned in Fiona’s mind ever since she first saw him in Gundawarra. A stoic, broad-shouldered cattleman stricken by the wreckage her brother has wrought…

In the heart of a man

Byrne has every reason to hate Fiona McLaren. Her reckless brother destroyed his family. But Fiona’s touch is the first to stir him in years. He wants to stay away, but she draws him like a moth to a flame… who will get burned?





- NORTH AMERICA April 2007 -



- UNITED KINGDOM  April 2007 -






















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Byrne handed her a glass of chilled wine and she took a sip to steady her nerves, and then she smiled at him serenely. “You’ll probably win the prize for the best male mask.”

He made a light, scoffing sound. “If they choose me, it will only because they’re trying to cheer me up.”

“Do you need cheering up?” she asked, knowing very well that he’d been a recluse for the past three years.

“Absolutely,” he said and he smiled. “You see? It’s your duty to keep me happy tonight, Flutter.”

“My duty? That sounds very old fashioned. And chauvinistic.”

“We pirates are the old fashioned, chauvinistic types. You’d better get used to it.”

Used to it. Heavens, what did that mean? Fiona was sure she should be affronted, but for the life of her she couldn’t raise any objection to the idea that Byrne might seek more of her company.

His eyes sparkled through the slits in his mask and his smile warmed her. He sounded happy.

And she felt a pang of guilt. Would he be so relaxed and happy if he knew who she was? Good grief, she’d been crazy to get into this situation. The trouble was – masks encouraged deception. Hiding her identity had seemed an innocent enough game at the start of the evening, but it was beginning to feel more dangerous every minute.

She should stop the charade now.

Taking a deep swig of her wine, she polished off half the glass in one giddying gulp. She’d get this over and done with. She’d tell Byrne who she was.


Right now.

She opened her mouth to speak. And the band struck up a noisy bracket.
Byrne took a step towards her and she caught a whiff of his aftershave – fresh and clean, like the ocean. He smiled again and she felt the mysterious power of him ripple over her, as if he’d caressed her. She felt the wine spread through her, warming her veins. Byrne bent his mouth to her ear and her skin tingled.

“Finish your wine.”

Sinking like a stone beneath his intensely masculine spell, she drained her glass and then Byrne set it aside and took her hand. And this time he didn’t even bother to ask if she’d like to dance. He led her onto the floor and she didn’t resist. When he drew her into his arms, his hand skimmed her bare back and she shivered, deliciously.

They danced – close and slow – and within no time at all their bodies were communicating the secret, unmistakable language of attraction.

They were Pete and Flutter, bound by a mysterious chemistry. How could she destroy that? How could she announce her name now and annihilate a magnetism more thrilling than anything she’d ever felt before?

In the middle of the third song, his mouth dipped close to her ear. “Would you like to go outside for some fresh air?”

What to say, but yes? Her body was a flashing green light. If he wanted to kiss her, she was too weak to say no.

And as he steered her across the dance floor, she ignored her guilty conscience.

Byrne couldn’t quite believe he was leading Flutter through a side door and out into the moonlit shadows. It was the kind of foolish nonsense youngsters engaged in, not staid, single fathers, who would never see thirty again.

Perhaps he could blame their masks. With only her mouth exposed, he’d been enchanted all evening by Flutter’s lips, so soft and pink and lush. He’d been fantasising about kissing her. Without removing her mask.

Now, she was walking just a little ahead of him, her bare back shimmering palely in the velvet black night.

“You’re right,” she said, turning to him. “It’s much cooler and fresher out here.”

Her lips, beneath the azure mask, were moon-washed and pale and they quivered ever so slightly.

He longed to kiss her. He took her hands in his, holding her lightly by the fingers. “I’ve enjoyed this evening very much.”

“You sound surprised,” she said, smiling.

“I am. Very surprised. I didn’t expect to find such charming company.” He let his thumbs rub lazily over her knuckles. “You’re very good company, Flutter.”

An unexpected flush crept up her throat and he was seized by a desperate urge to trace that burning tide with his lips.

He drew a swift breath. “I know we haven’t met formally and I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to have to kiss you.”

A tiny sound escaped her – it might have been a gasp or a hiccup or a laugh. But when she lifted her face to him, he knew she wanted him.

“I’ve never been kissed by a pirate.” Her lips parted as she drifted closer.
Fighting a reckless desire to crush her against his roused body, Byrne took her gently in his arms.

He had to take this slowly.

No, he could be wild. She wouldn’t mind. She would expect it from a pirate.

No, no. Not wild. A kiss with a stranger in the moonlight should always be romantic.

He slipped his arms around her and felt her smooth, soft skin beneath his palms. Her curves nestled against him. She was soft and warm and womanly and his desire mounted so fiercely he could barely breathe. He prayed for restraint as he nudged his lower lip against hers.

Slow, man. Slow. He teased them both mercilessly, with leisurely caresses, letting his mouth trail slowly, slowly, back and forth over hers. He heard her moan ever so softly and she began to tremble in his arms. Helpless suddenly, unbearably aroused, he took her face in his hands and kissed her deeply.

His plans for restraint were forgotten and his kiss became fuelled by a fierce hunger. He ravaged her soft mouth with possessive thrusts of his tongue, pulling her hips against him, so that she couldn’t mistake his need for her.

Had he been drugged? He’d never experienced such need. No kiss had ever felt so dreamlike and yet so real. He was completely lost, crazed by the intoxicating sweetness of her eager mouth. He never wanted this to end.


A voice called through the dark and Flutter went still in his arms.
“Fiona, are you there?”

She stiffened, then pulled away from him. In a daze, he heard her mumble some kind of apology.

“What is it?” he muttered. “Are they looking for you?”

“Yes,” she whispered. And then, “I’m sorry.”



From “In the Heart of the Outback"
By: Barbara Hannay
Mills and Boon Romance
April 2007

ISBN: 978-0263854244

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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"IN THE HEART OF THE OUTBACK is a beautiful story of two sad people who slowly rise above the past and look to the future."






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