Authors: Margaret Way
From different worldsâ¦to wedding bells?
Find out if Mr. Completely Wrong And Out Of My League turns out to be Mr. Right in
A Wish and a Wedding
Watch the sparks fly in this special volume containing two short stories by queen of the Outback Margaret Way and Aussie talent Melissa James.
“With climactic scenes, dramatic imagery and bold characters, Margaret Way makes the Outback come alive.”
RT Book Reviews
“Melissa James seizes the reader by the heart and leaves her smiling with satisfaction.”
Master of Mallarinka
a definite Leo, was born and raised in the subtropical river city of Brisbane, capital of the Sunshine State of Queensland. A conservatorium-trained pianist, teacher, accompanist and vocal coach, she found that her musical career came to an unexpected end when she took up writingâinitially as a fun thing to do. She currently lives in a harborside apartment at beautiful Raby Bay, a thirty-minute drive from the state capital, where she loves dining al fresco on her plant-filled balcony, overlooking a translucent green marina filled with all manner of pleasure craftâfrom motor cruisers costing millions of dollars and big, graceful yachts, with carved masts standing tall against the cloudless blue sky, to little bay runabouts. No one and nothing is in a mad rush, and she finds the laid-back village atmosphere very conducive to her writing. With well over 100 books to her credit, she still believes her best is yet to come.
sixteenth birthday Victoria Rushford, already dubbed “the beautiful Rushford heiress” by a media that appeared to be growing bigger with every passing year, had overreached herself terribly. She had done something so reckless, so utterly
that four years later the sheer awfulness of it brought a burning blush to her cheeks and an agonised groan from her throat. The incident, a by-product of her pathetic needinessâshe really was the proverbial poor little rich girlâhad turned a delirium of expectation into a catastrophe inconceivable only the day before. The Disasterâshe always thought of it that wayâhad divided her and Haddo for ever. Never again could they be natural with one another. Never again would they be friends after a lifetime of bonding.
Overnight she had become disconnected from her moorings. She had gone from hero-worshipping Haddoâperfect in her mind, fantastic, dashing, a thousand times more sexy than any guy she knew or ever expected to know, twenty-five to her sixteenâto actively hating him. That was how deep the wounds went. Hating was a development that often occurred when someone was profoundly humiliated, especially after long being held in the greatest affection.
She had never in her wildest dreams imagined Haddo could turn on her the way he had. It suggested dark depths of feeling she had been totally unaware of. For chilling moments she had
feared he was going to fling her bodily out of his room, such had been his shock and apparent aversion. Memories were torture, but there were times one couldn't stop them rolling. It was pretty much like being forced to watch a video that was enormously distressingâ¦
The homestead was in darkness. Haddo's suite of rooms was in the West Wing, which meant that instead of doing it with ease, considering the number of times she had walked it, she had to inch her way along the long baronial-style gallery. It was hung with paintings, and antique chairs were set at intervals, just in case someone got the urge to sit down and study the family heirlooms. Huge Chinese porcelain vases stood on standsâ
famille rose, famille verte, famille noir,
you name it. The vases were so valuable they should have been in glass cases, but what the heck? This was the ancestral home, not a museum.
She kept moving in a straight line, hoping to goodness she wouldn't veer off to left or right and knock into something. How unlucky would that be? It would be fatal to wake anyone. Quite a few of the rellies who had turned up for her birthday party were sleeping behind those closed doors. Mercifully a couple of them, septuagenarians, were deaf. She understood many problems arose at that age, but at sixteen, seventy plus was such a long way off it was in a totally separate time zone.
She had timed her move exactly to two-thirty. Anyone would think she had a train to catch. Was three a.m. the witching hour? Or was that midnight? She was reduced to giggles. Either way, two-thirty seemed like a good time. Normal people were fast asleep. She had only just achieved lift-off.
Broad rays of moonlight poured through the tall stained glass windows at the top of the staircase, drenching the landing in radiant white light. That calmed her. She wasn't one of those people who favoured the dark. She always had to have light. Now, with the moonlight, she could very nearly see. She hoped she wouldn't encounter the Rushford ghost. Very likely the
ghost was about. She was pretty blasÃ© about the whole thing. Every historic house had a ghost or two. It stood to reason that occasionally paths would cross.
Their particular ghost was Eliza Rushford, who had died in childbirth in the late 1800s at the tender age of eighteen. Way too young to start a family! Heaven must have been full up at the time, because Eliza hung around the gallery to this day, drifting up and down it, beckoning to those who had the ability to see her to come and visit the old nursery. Great-Aunt Philippaâshe who had trained Victoria to walk about balancing a book on her headâclaimed to have seen Eliza many times, and once even got into an in-depth discussion with her, regarding the high mortality rate in childbirth in those days. Otherwise Great-Aunt Philippa, known as Pip, was a remarkably sensible woman, and a wonderful musician.
“I could have been a concert pianist, Tori dear. I was just that good!”
Anyway, Pip sat on the board of the Rushford Pastoral Company and did an excellent job. She knew a humungous amount of stuffâshe could easily have won the top quiz showsâand she was great fun. Unlike her sister, Great-Aunt Bea, spinster by choice, who took the fun out of everything.
Victoria didn't really believe in ghosts herself. She had never seen hide nor hair of her adored departed father, Michael, though she and Pip had once had a shot at summoning him up at a sÃ©anceâuntil Bea had put a stop to it.
“You can't leave well alone, can you, Philippa?” Bea had said. “Leave the poor child alone. She's screwed up enough as it is!” Great-Aunt Bea was a fine one to talk.
Stealing on, barefootâhow she wished for a flaming torchâVictoria finally made it to Haddo's bedroom door without mishap. She was amazed she was actually capable of doing this. If things went wrong she could always claim she was sleepwalking. An excessively bitchy girlfriend of Haddo's had once called her a “cheeky little brat!” Jealous, of course.
The door wasn't locked. The brass hinges didn't squeak. Haddo would have had them oiled if they did. She had no trouble easing the door open. He was lying on his back in the huge bed, his breathing deep and quiet. She would have been astounded if he had been snoring. Haddo was just too cool! He didn't even stir at her unauthorised entry, though she swallowed hard herself.
So far so good. Fortune favoured the brave. She loved the idea of that.
Moonlight glittered on the verandah. The French doors were wide open to the desert breeze that carried with it the scent of the beautiful boronia. It billowed the filmy central drops of the curtains, with their rich tapestry drapes to either side. A clock was ticking awayânot loudly, but perfectly audible in the silvery dark. She couldn't sleep with a ticking clock in the room herself. She just hoped this one didn't chime the quarter-hour. That would have been too unnerving.
She started forward, feeling as if she was floating. Her dark red hair tumbled down her backâmasses of it. Coils of it twined around her throat and her shoulders. She had arranged it that way to hide her elf's ears. For the first time in her life she truly felt beautiful. She wasn't one of those people who found her looks entrancing.
She lifted the cream satin-bound hem of her luxurious nightgown clear of the Persian rug, in case she tripped and fell to the floor. That would totally destroy the romance of her entry. It was a beautiful garment, glamorous and seductive; in fact the first glamorous, seductive nightie she had ever owned. She had secretly bought it in an exclusive little shop that sold the most
lingerieâvery naughty. The nightie was a bit big, but the smallest she'd been able to get. There wasn't a great deal of herâespecially in the bosom department. But she did feel very much a woman on the threshhold of life.
Haddo's breathing abruptly changed. The swiftness of it took her by surprise. She shook violently. Then he moved. He
kicked back the top sheet, turning his dark head on the pillow in her direction. Maybe he thought she was the ghost of Eliza? Maybe poor Eliza often used his shoulder to cry on? Most women would die to.
His voice when it came was half-drugged with sleep. “Tori, is that you?”
She was transfixed. She didn't answer,
Yes, Haddo, it's me.
Instead she thought,
Oh, my gosh, what have I done?
The whole thing was unreal.
She detoured around a chair, then swam closer to the bed on a wave of euphoria. Her eyes were riveted on Haddo's long lean frame. His splendid torso was naked, but she saw he was wearing a pair of boxer shorts. She gulped. When it came right down to it she wanted to start the seduction
The top sheet was now tangled up in his long straight legs.
Haddoâher safe haven! Only tonight was special: an uncharted adventure, a voyage of discovery. She was at the side of his high bed. It had been custom-made for a big manâHaddo was six-three. She clambered onto itânot without difficulty. She would have been far better off with a short nightie, but nothing could detract from her ecstasy of yearning. Oh, to lie down with him, beside him, on top of him, under himâto breathe in the same air. It filled her with so much elation she gave a throbbing little moan. If this wasn't the greatest moment of her life, what was?
I've done it!
she thought ecstatically, feeling strange to herself, and more than a little wild. She had a definite sense Haddo thought she wasn't real, but that too was part of the extravagant adventure. Desire. Dreaming. He wouldn't be able to resist her. As a bereaved child, looking for love and protection, she had turned to Cousin Haddo out of everyone in her extended family as the source of comfort. Now she had a craving for something altogether different from him: the fulfilment of the bond that had been long years in the making.
To her unending joy, even triumph, he folded her body into
him as though he was about to feast on it. It whipped up a fury of sensation, as if a bonfire had been lit inside her. She was instantly aflame. It was difficult for her not to cheer aloud. Then came the moment of supreme bliss. Her eyelids grew heavy, her coltish limbs languorous. Haddo's handsome dark head descended over hersâ¦
Kiss me. Touch me. My body is ready for you.
Her brain had shut down at least an hour ago. Haddo, her wonderful Haddo, started kissing her with his beautiful, sensuous mouth. A line of sparkling stars trailed down her throat to between her breasts. Rapture pierced her. Her long legs were moving restlessly up and down on the sheet, turning out at the knees like the petals of a flower. She couldn't quite catch her breath. Her head was swimming. She had over-estimated her own ability to handle this level of emotion. It was so tumultuous it was an agony. She had a notion she was getting scared. She wanted to grab on to his shoulders, feel the strong bones and polished skin, beg him to give her a momentâ¦
Only he had found her open waiting mouth, and his arousal was so powerful, so apparent, it electrified her, thrilling her out of her mind. She was desperate to lift her restless legs and wrap them around himâbut she could hear the silk of her nightgown tearing. She had never remotely been in the grip of such rapture before. She was right at its epicentre, dizzy with it, maybe a little stupefied it was so immense.
Her body was pinned to the mattress. It came to her in an overwhelming rush that Haddo was experienced. She wasn't. He had gone way beyond puppy love. She hadn't even started. She wasn't interested in sloppy teenage boys. Haddo, however, was a splendid young man who had always had girls queuing in line, each hoping she would be the one. How she had hated that! Hadn't any of them realised Haddo was waiting for
Waiting patiently for a few years to pass?
Beneath her sheer nightgown she was naked, and it really, really felt like it. She was so acutely conscious of her own body
he might have already tossed her nightie out onto the Persian rug. That was her small breast he was cupping with his hand, the throbbing nipple as ripe as a berry. It was such raging passion, tears sprang to her eyes. Sex was immense, and they had only just begun. For that matter, was she really
enough for this?
I can't stand it.
Did she whimper it aloud? She must have.
The entire world came to a halt. Moments later it started up again, in case everyone got thrown off.
Haddo cried out. There was so much pain and shock in his voice, he might have been skewered, like Macbeth, by a dagger. His hand caught her wrists, pinning her to the bed. He was staring down at her as she lay back against the pillows, her long hair tumbling everywhere, the perfume she had misted all over herâevery pulse-point, her navel, even the back of her kneesâscenting the air around them.
He sounded absolutely stunned. From groggy with sleep he was now on trigger alert.
“Oh, God, Tori, are you crazy?”
How ghastly was that? Tears sprang to her eyes. They slid silently down her cheeks. His tone was so accusatory she couldn't understand where he was coming from. It was as though he had started to speak to her in a foreign tongue. Not French, or Italian, or German. Nothing like that. At any rate,
was the very last word she had expected to hear. Were all men like this? Did every last one of them have tricks up their sleeve? She might have represented an extreme threat to his person. Worse, she might have been putting him in danger of committing a heinous crime. Her skin, so heated a moment before, turned to gooseflesh.
“For heaven's sake, Tori. What are you thinking of?” he groaned. “We can't do this. We can't.”
Out the words spilled, while her heart dropped to her feet
like a stone. The air around them turned dense and suffocating, filled with a crackling electricity. Her whole body was receiving multiple shocks. She thought she would never forget the horror in his voice, the utter condemnation. Her wonderful birthday had been unimaginably spoiled.
Why was he sounding as if he was overcome by guilt? Just how old did she have to
She pushed up, as frantic as he, their faces and bodies all but touching.
“What's happening here?” She heard her own voice, distraught.
He took her by the shoulders, holding her forcibly away from him. His strong hands trembled, as though he was afraid of her. This was like some weird romance, where the heroine got killed off in the first chapter.
I can't bear this!
Her body was pumping adrenalin. His was filled with a spring-loaded tension.