Jessica Hart

Baby At Bushman's Creek


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      “It sounds as if I could be useful to you.”

      Gray’s unsettling brown gaze traveled from her earrings down over the stylishly simple dress to her strappy sandals. “In what way?”

      “I could be your housekeeper,” Clare said with a shade of defiance. “I’m perfectly capable of cooking and cleaning.”

      In response, Gray reached out and took hold of her hands. Turning them over, he ran his thumbs consideringly over her palms. “It doesn’t look as if you do much rough work.”

      His touch was quite impersonal, but Clare was disconcerted to feel her skin tingling. His hands were strong, cool and calloused, and very brown against her English skin. She snatched her hands away, furious to find herself blushing.

      “Herding a few cows is easy compared to looking after a baby for twenty-four hours a day!” she snapped, to cover her confusion. “I’m used to getting my hands dirty.”

      OUTBACK

      Brides

      In the hot, dusty Australian Outback, the last thing a woman expects to find is a husband….

      Clare, the Englishwoman, Ellie, the tomboy and Lizzy, the career girl, don’t come to this harsh, beautiful land looking for love.

      Yet they all find themselves saying “I do” to a handsome Australian man of their dreams!

      Baby at Bushman’s Creek

      Wedding at Waverley Creek

      A Bride for Barra Creek

      Welcome to an exciting new trilogy by rising star

      Jessica Hart

      Celebrate three unexpected weddings, Australian style!

      Baby at Bushman’s Creek

      Jessica Hart

       www.millsandboon.co.uk

      CONTENTS

       CHAPTER ONE

       CHAPTER TWO

       CHAPTER THREE

       CHAPTER FOUR

       CHAPTER FIVE

       CHAPTER SIX

       CHAPTER SEVEN

       CHAPTER EIGHT

       CHAPTER NINE

       CHAPTER TEN

      CHAPTER ONE

      EYES narrowed against the glare, Clare watched the cloud of dust approaching through the shimmering haze. Could this be Gray Henderson at last?

      She certainly hoped so. She had been waiting for him all morning, with nothing to do but walk Alice up and down the main street of Mathison. It had not taken long, Clare remembered with a sigh.

      Apart from the hotel, there was a general store, a bank and a petrol station. A handful of low, functional houses were set in dusty yards and the whole town—if such a straggling collection of buildings could be called a town—had an air of being battened down against the heat. They had seen no one during their walk, and had retreated to the shade of the hotel verandah, where Alice had been happy enough to play with her hands and chirrup gently to herself.

      Clare, though, had been heartily bored. The emergence of the dust cloud on the road that stretched emptily out to the horizon had been enough to make her get to her feet, but it was some minutes before it materialised at last into a battered utility truck. It drew up opposite the hotel with a clunk of gears, the passenger door opened and a man got out.

      From her viewpoint at the top of the verandah steps, Clare could see only that he was a lean, rangy figure in moleskin trousers and a checked shirt, bending down to say something through the window to the driver. As she watched, he slapped the roof of the cab in a gesture of farewell, the truck roared off, and he turned and walked across the road towards the hotel.

      The unhurried stride, the laconic way he settled his hat on his head, matched so precisely the deep, slow voice on the phone that Clare’s nerves tightened with a mixture of relief that he had turned up at last and irritation. He clearly wasn’t in any hurry, in spite of having kept her waiting all morning!

      Not that she would be able to say anything, Clare reminded herself. She would have to be very careful. She had to get this first meeting right, not just for Alice’s sake, but for her own. The realisation of just how important the next few minutes would be made Clare bend down and lift Alice into her arms, holding her small, solid body close for reassurance. Having spent the whole morning longing for Gray Henderson to arrive, she found herself suddenly hoping that it wouldn’t be him at all.

      But it was.

      The man paused at the bottom of the steps as he caught sight of her, eyeing her narrowly for a moment before climbing them with the same infuriating lack of haste. ‘Clare Marshall?’ he said, and took off his hat. His gaze flickered to Alice, and his brows lifted slightly. ‘I’m Gray Henderson. You wanted to see me.’

      He had brown hair, brown weathered skin and a pair of unreadable brown eyes. Alice’s eyes, Clare realised with a jolt. Somehow she hadn’t expected that. Under their steady gaze, Clare was suddenly conscious of how strange and out of place she must look in this dusty outback town, with her pearl earrings and her yellow linen dress and her elegant Italian sandals. She had dressed with special care that morning, wanting to impress him, but if he was impressed, he was giving absolutely no sign of it.

      ‘Yes.’ She had a horrible feeling that her smile was as brittle and alien as she looked, and her voice sounded clipped and very English compared to his slow Australian drawl. ‘Thank you for coming,’ she added, stilted with the effort not to ask him why it had taken him so long.

      ‘You said it was important,’ he reminded her.

      ‘It is.’

      Ever since she had learnt that she wasn’t going to be able to see Jack, as she had hoped, Clare had been practising how to explain the situation to Gray Henderson, but now that he was actually there all her careful speeches had vanished, and she was left staring at him, her mind blank with panic.

      If only he had been more like his brother! Pippa had told her so much about Jack’s warmth and charm and reckless sense of fun that Clare almost felt that she knew him herself, and she was unprepared to deal with a man as coolly unapproachable as Gray Henderson appeared to be. Where Jack’s face in photographs was mobile and smiling, Gray’s was guarded, expressionless, giving her no clues as to what he was thinking.

      ‘Shall…shall we sit down?’ she suggested, playing for time while she tried to marshal her scrambled thoughts.

      Gray followed her over to the bench at the back of the verandah, sat down next to her and waited calmly for her to tell him why she had asked him to meet her. It had seemed much too difficult to discuss over the phone when she had rung him last night, but now Clare wondered if it wouldn’t have been easier to explain